Empowerment: What can Nurse Leaders Do to Encourage an Empowering Environment for Nurses Working in the Mental Health Area?
Nurses, as the majority of the mental health workforce have a valuable contribution to make at a policy development level. The 1998 report from the Ministerial Taskforce on Nursing supports this statement but also indicates that there is a general reluctance by nurses to participate in policy development. For nurses to have control over their practice they need to have input into policy development. Nurses having control over their practice has been linked to nursing empowerment. Therefore the question explored in this research project is: What can nurse leaders do to encourage an empowering environment for nurses working in the mental health area? The literature reviewed for this project includes empowerment, power, the history of nursing in relation to women's role in society, oppression and resistance, and literature on Critical Social Theory as the underlying theoretical and philosophical position which informs the research process. In order to answer the research question a single focus group was used to gather data from a group of registered nurses practising in mental health. Focus groups as a data collection method produce data and insights that would be less accessible without the interaction found in the group. The key themes to emerge from the data analysis were; power is an important component of empowerment and power relationships; and at a systems level, professional, organisational, and political influences impact on feelings of empowerment and/or disempowerment. These key themes are discussed in relation to the literature and the broader social and cultural context of the mental health care environment. The contribution this research makes to nursing includes a list of recommendations for nurse leaders who aim to provide an empowering environment for nurses practising in mental health.