Creating a Culture of Empowerment in the Nursing Community through a New Perspective for Leadership

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Nina Greenwald


As a nurse, I'm oppressed and I didn't even know it! I had no name for the feelings I experienced all these years in nursing. This synthesis project has helped me understand and accept myself and all nurses as an oppressed group, who exhibit oppressive group behavior such as belittling, sabotage, verbal abuse, cliticisrh, sarcasm and horizontal violence. These behaviors often leave nurses feeling powerless, under-valued, disrespected and worthless in their work cultures. Long-standing behaviors such as these damage self-esteem and self-respect in the nursing profession. Nurses are further oppressed by complex, paternalistic healthcare systems. Inequities in power structures contribute to nurses feeling powerless in their domains contributing to their oppression. Paolo Freire's studies of dominant and subordinate Brazilians sheds considerable light on nurses' experience as an oppressed group, as does the work of Dr. Susan Roberts, a faculty member of Northeastern University. Their perspectives have opened the way for me to develop a new understanding and acceptance of nurses as an oppressed group, and to create a training program to help nurses become empowered and implement important cultural changes in their profession. It is the author's view that every nurse needs to take responsibility for being a leader and model for others in this way. For this project, I developed a workshop design using the tools, strategies and skills I learned in the Critical and Creative Thinking program at the University of Massachusetts. Through role-play, brainstorming, free writing, and other various enlightening exercises carried out in a safe environment, nurses can learn to become effective change agents in their work cultures. Through re-discovering themselves in these ways, nurses will be much better equipped to provide the highest quality of care for patients in today's complex healthcare systems, and this will affect how we regard ourselves and relate to colleagues. This project is an important beginning, a first step toward creating necessary culture change in the nursing profession.


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