Nursing with the people: Reimagining futures for nursing

Jessica Dillard-Wright, Vanessa Shields-Haas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We wish to advance a theory of nursing that intentionally engages in questions of politics and economics, centering equity and justice as a foundation for the provision of nursing care. As health care costs rise and health disparities widen, nurses have a clear imperative to develop alternative health care delivery models unmoored from the conventional employment and profit-driven structures that now disappoint us. This mandate arises from our disciplinary focus that emphasizes social justice as a social and moral good linked to the human services nurses provide. This kind of sociopolitical engagement is not auxiliary to nursing but rather central to our ethos. A health care environment that prioritizes profit over the well-being of people is an anathema to our disciplinary focus which, we believe, should center communities and people. The health care system that has forged nursing in the United States, transforms nursing into a commodity. This reinscribes inequality for those who are unable to access care, contributes to environmental harm through profligate hospital pollution and waste, and exploits nursing staff as workers. Nurses have a history of both upholding oppressive systems that disenfranchise segments of the public, usually poor, often People of Color, and engaging in innovative alternatives to the status quo. We wish to foster revolutionary alternative care delivery models that free us from the neoliberal confines of for-profit health care. Ultimately, we argue, nursing as a discipline and a science cannot neglect our role as whistleblowers and change agents. Nor can we presuppose that our dysfunctional and harmful health care structure in the United States is a foregone conclusion. Health care is constructed, which means it can be reconstructed. If we wish to realize our emancipatory potential as nurses, critically examining our role in upholding oppressive structures is a critical step toward a more robust future of nursing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-209
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Nursing Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Emancipatory nursing
  • Neoliberalism
  • Nursing economics
  • Nursing ethics
  • Nursing politics
  • Radical imagination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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