An Exploration of Political Consciousness Amongst Final Year Nursing Students in Northern Ireland

Siobhan McCullough

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Context and background
Historically nurses perceive politics and nursing as being at odds with the caring image, synonymous with nurses (Salvage, 1985). Furthermore the concept of the ‘politics of nursing’ lacks clear conceptual clarity (Hewison, 1994). This concept ranges across a continuum from political interest to participation or engagement (Rains et al, 2001). It is often argued political interest tends to be equated with knowledge/ involvement in health policy development and nurse education can foster political consciousness, through political socialization (Brown, 1996). But despite the World Health Organization (WHO, 2002) urging this involvement, nurses globally are largely absent from the political and policy making arena. What influences nurse’s political socialization and the development of a political consciousness is not clearly identified or known, although many commentators suggest the undergraduate educational environment, plays an important role (Hanley, 1987, Winter, 1991).     

The aim of this study was to explore third year nursing student’s perceptions of politics in nursing, in the context of Northern Ireland. A number of hypotheses were tested examining the relationship between age, prior educational attainment and political interest and attitudes.  

Research methodology
A cross sectional research design was used and the data was collected using a short anonymous self-completion web survey (Bryman, 2012). The sample was a convenience sample of one cohort of final year adult nursing students (n154) in one Northern Irish university, with a 42% response rate. Data was analyzed using SPSS.

Key findings and conclusions
The results revealed 55% of students were very/fairly interested in politics, with 6% reporting no interest in politics. 85% of students were registered to vote, but only 48% voted in the 2010 N Ireland Assembly election.   
Recommend inclusion of a unit of study incorporating innovative teaching methods related to politics and health related policy, in the undergraduate nursing programme.       
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013


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