An exploration of empowerment from the perspective of Irish nurses and midwives
Corbally, Melissa A. (2004) An exploration of empowerment from the perspective of Irish nurses and midwives. Master of Science thesis, Dublin City University.
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Empowerment is a complex and multifaceted construct. It is understood to be a perception of ability that can be influenced by numerous factors. Due to the subjective nature of human perception, there is a potential for empowerment to mean different things to different people. Empowerment theory is also equally diverse. Several research approaches have attempted to measure empowerment. Most of these have assumed its meaning which is problematic given the fact that empowerment is interpreted at the level of the individual. Zimmerman (1995) asserts that empowerment is contextually determined. Because nurses and midwives, practice in complex environments, it is also possible that these contexts impact on their perceptions of empowerment.
This study aimed to explore perceptions of empowerment amongst ninety-three nurses and midwives. Ten focus groups were held across Ireland with representation sought from five branches of nursing and of midwifery. In total, ten themes emerged from the data, one antecedent theme, three empowerment themes and six impacting themes. Empowerment was found to consist of inherent beliefs of control, personal power and professional respect. Education for practice was found to be antecedent to inherent empowerment beliefs. Six impacting factors were also identified which determine empowerment beliefs. These are organisational factors, management, professional issues, interpersonal issues, individual factors and historical legacy.
The findings, while reflecting aspects of empowerment theory and research, suggest that empowerment is conceptualised more broadly by Irish nurses and midwives than previously thought. Education for practice as antecedent and professional respect as an inherent empowerment belief are new findings as is having a clearly defined role and willingness for empowerment. This study supports the view that empowerment is complex and contextually determined and as such, contributes to current understanding surrounding the meaning of empowerment amongst practising nurses and midwives in Ireland.
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