Hospital nurses’ lived experience of power

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Publication Date


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Journal of Nursing Scholarship


Power, powerful, nurses' lived experience, phenomenology


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore hospital nurses' lived experience of power.

Design: A hermeneutic phenomenological approach informed by Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of the phenomenology of perception was used to further an understanding of nurses' embodiment of power. Fourteen hospital clinical nurses employed in intensive care units and on medical floors in two major medical centers in the northeastern United States participated in 1-hr semistructured interviews about their lived experience of power.

Findings: A hermeneutic analytic approach and reflexive (cultural) bracketing produced three relational themes of power: (a) knowing my patients and speaking up for them; (b) working to build relationships that benefit patients; and (c) identifying my powerful self. Conclusions: Hospital clinical nurses develop a sense of power. Nurses believe power develops through acquisition of knowledge, experience, and self-confidence; this process is enhanced by exposure to good mentors. Nurses use their power to build relationships and advocate for patients. They consciously use power to improve patient care. Nurses' voices need to be heard and acknowledged. To do this in the clinical setting and beyond, hospital nurses must invite themselves or find ways to be invited into the authoritative discourse of hospital organizations.

Clinical Relevance: Nurses use their power to advocate for positive outcomes for patients and families. The satisfaction that comes from these positive relationships may improve nurses' perceptions of their work environment. Nurses' understanding and use of sociopolitical knowing needs further study, so that nurses may understand how to participate in current and future debates and decisions about our changing healthcare delivery systems and services.


© 2015 Sigma Theta Tau International