The Power to Make a Difference “We cannot empower another, because to presume to do so removes the element of choice” (Burkhardt & Nathaniel, 2008, p. 471). Although nurses may not be able to empower patients, they can, through the process of empowerment, enable patients to speak up. Nurses can help patients develop an awareness of areas that need change and support the desire to take action. Approaching a patient as an equal partner allows for collaboration and aids in communication which is necessary to facilitate the empowerment process.
Nurses should remember to avoid imposing personal values on their patients. Sometimes it is difficult for nurses to relinquish control and accept decisions patients make for themselves. Nurses can shift the power to the patient by focusing on the patient’s self-determined needs. “Improving a person’s ability to understand and manage his or her own health and disease, negotiate with different cadres of health professionals, and navigate the complexities of health is crucial to achieving better health outcomes” (“Patient empowerment,” 2012, p. 50). There are institutional and professional constraints affecting nursing and patient empowerment. “Nurses need to recognize such barriers and appreciate that not everyone wants to take the risks and assume the responsibility that empowerment demands” (Burkhardt & Nathaniel, 2008, p. 488). One barrier to fostering empowerment is a paternalistic attitude causing the patient, to solely, rely on the decisions that healthcare providers make for them. A nurse’s unwillingness to share decision-making power with the patient can hinder empowerment.
Fear of being labeled by staff could also keep patients from asserting their power. Economic factors can have an effect on limitation of resources which can hinder empowerment. Transcultural and spiritual issues do play a role in empowerment. How one thinks and responds to a situation, is based on cultural beliefs and values. To be sensitive to transcultural issues, one must be self-aware. It is helpful for nurses to be knowledgeable about cultural differences and their importance in interactions with healthcare.
A nurse should listen, be open-minded and nonjudgmental about patients’ values, beliefs, and religious practices in order to make appropriate care plans. When patients feel accepted, valued and respected, they are more willing to participate in their care and make decisions that are congruent with their values and beliefs. I work in a facility that has created councils that nurses can join. Through the Education, Practice and Operation councils, policies and guidelines of practice can be examined, discussed and changed as necessary. Education in cultural diversity has also been required to help nurses become aware of cultural differences.
Administrative rounding and town hall meetings have helped employees with questions and concerns and have helped them to feel as though they have a voice in the decision making process. Because change can be slow, nurses can sometimes feel frustrated, but having an avenue through which change can occur brings the sense of empowerment and, therefore, increases job satisfaction. References Burkhardt, M. A. , & Nathaniel, A. K. (2008). Ethics and Issues in Contemporary Nursing (3 ed. ). Clifton Park, NY: Thomas Delmar Learning. Patient empowerment– who empowers whom?. (2012, August 18). The Lancet, 380, 65