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Chapter 4 Conclusion If nurse educators do not appropriately role model political behavior, can it be expected that members of the profession will participate in their professional organizations and in the political process? The study of political socialization agents explains a great deal about the way in which politics works and people behave. This volume has presented the importance of the political arena to the nursing profession. It has explored the role modeling behavior and attitudes toward political participation of a primary socialization agent: nurse educators. Cultural and social values, upheld by these academics, as well as their role modeling are among the essential features underlying the behavior of nurses on the political stage. Participants in this study have an understanding of the importance of the political process to their profession and the need for a political role on the part of all professionals. However, at the same time, they have little inclination to perform that role and they do not provide positive role modeling in political activism. In this sample there is a dearth of role models whose behavior reflects the realities of the political process. Participation is thin in terms of the number of participants and the number of activities engaged in. These nurse educators have not taken advantage of the wide range of available power resources. They are wed to restricted patterns of interest articulation and goal achievement behaviors. Moreover, their actions are not congruent with their beliefs, which are one thing in theory and another in practice. 137 The results of this study might be used to explain in part nursing ’s status as a “sleeping giant” and its failure to realize its potential in the political arena, both of which have been lamented in the nursing literature for a long time. Professional socialization agents have evidently functioned in such a way that nurses have developed behavior appropriate to the clinical environment, but not to the political arena. This phenomenon affects these professionals as members or nonmembers of, and participants or nonparticipants in, professional associations; as potential agents of change in the health care and political systems; and as citizens. As in all professions, politics pervades the nursing profession. It will determine its future and the form in which it survives as it has influenced its past. Nursing faces a more exposed and difficult situation today because it was not able to resolve its occupational and professional problems years ago when the environment was more conducive to its success. Competition in the political arena is and will become keener as the number of groups competing for shrinking rewards and resources increases. The profession will need to increase the number of politically active nurses to enhance its effectiveness on the political stage. The separation of nursing and politics is no longer accepted. Political activity is part of nurses’ legitimate work. The professional voices of nursing affirm politics as a professional responsibility (Mason, 1990). The political context of nursing cannot be ignored. Moreover, official sources, such as the Secretary’s Commission on Nursing, a national advisory panel established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, have recommended that nurses increase their participation in policy-making opportunities within the profession and at all levels of government (National Commission on Nursing, 1988). Other influential interdisciplinary bodies, such as the Pew Health Professions Commission, have concurred with this political thrust. In a report, the Commission (Pew Health Professions Commission, 1995) noted the need for health professionals to work with political forces. Furthermore, it affirmed , “The role of activist and advocate is not a new one for the health care professional, but it is one that must be recovered and forged anew. . . .” (p. xii). Until recently most nursing politics have dealt primarily with nursing’s own intraprofessional concerns. Although the profession 138 Nurse Educators and Politics has recognized the importance of the externalist dimension of power, and it has made great strides in exercising it, much remains to be done to further mobilize nursing into a significant political force. Results of this study indicate that the curriculum, role modeling , and mentoring are among the important instruments in this mobilization. The curriculum is one of the major political socialization agents. Nurse leaders have related the deficits in the education of nurses in politics and public policy making to the profession’s limited performance in the political arena (Stimpson & Hanley, 1991). Results of this study second the need for formal incorporation of a systematically developed political–public policy facet in already...


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