Structural justice and nursing: Inpatient nurses’ obligation to address social justice needs of patients [2018]

As inpatient nurses spend the majority of their work time caring for patients at the bedside, they are often firsthand witnesses to the devastating outcomes of inadequate preventive healthcare and structural injustices within current social systems. This experience should obligate inpatient nurses to be involved in meeting the social justice needs of their patients. Many nursing codes of ethics mandate some degree of involvement in the social justice needs of society, though how this is to be achieved is not detailed in these general guidelines. Acknowledging an explicit obligation for inpatient nurses to address the social justice issues of their patients would facilitate better overall understanding of social justice issues and reduce preventable admissions. If implementation of such an obligation is done with care, having inpatient nurses participate in justice projects could also mitigate compassion fatigue, allow for better job satisfaction among these nurses, and provide a sense of revitalization in nurses’ role as health promoters.

Pageen M Small
Nursing Ethics, November 9, 2018