What is it about?

A critical review of: Policy & Politics in Nursing and Health Care – 5th Edition by Diana J. Mason, Judith K. Leavitt and Mary W. Chaffee (eds). 2007. Elsevier–Saunders, St Louis, Missouri, USA. ISBN 1416023143. 1066 pp.

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Why is it important?

In today’s terms many people, both inside and out of nursing, are critical of the degree of political apathy and/or impotence demonstrated by such a large global profession. The nursing literature is often particularly critical of the fact that nurses and nursing are not well represented at a health policy level. This equates to situations where health agen- da, for many nurses, are often formula- ted and dictated by organizations and professional bodies other than nursing – especially medicine and management. If any country has made significant in- roads to try to reverse this trend, it is North America (US).


This US-based book, in its 5th edition, represents a remarkable feat. As an edited text it has more than 150 con- tributors, which represents a phenome- nal coordinating task undertaken by the three identified editors. The contributors come from a range of mainly nursing- related disciplines and settings and include many high-ranking and politically active representatives. This book then, brings together a notable collection of authors who have significantly contributed to the political and health policy development of nursing in the US. It is a weighty tome at 1066 pages, but this does not mean that it is inaccessible; far from it. It is a text though that one would be best to dip in and out of rather than commit to reading from beginning to end. It has a range of useful pedago- gical features that help to distract from the more theoretical chapters. These come in the form of vignettes, policy spotlights and taking action sections. They offer ‘live’ commentary of actual examples in practice. Furthermore, the book is divided into several sequential units. These are an introduction to policy and politics, health care and finance, policy and politics in the work- place, in the government, in organizations, and in the community. The main limitation of this book lies with its ambitious nature. To a certain extent it is a problem that cannot be avoided. With so many contributors, diversity of political opinion and with such a wide range of topics, this is bound to affect flow and continuity. The authors have tried hard to avoid this in how the book is systematically organized, but fragmentation is unavoidable. This is a further reason why this text is best as a ‘dip-in, dip-out’ resource. Overall then, this book offers a fascinating insight into the political and policy workings and processes of the US government and healthcare systems. As nursing influence in these areas is most prominent in this country, this book provides a template for the adoption of similar activities elsewhere in the world. I have already argued that all nurses should be politically orientated and nurtured early on in their careers in order to groom them as potential future health policy entrepreneurs (Whitehead 2003a,b). To help accommodate such reform in required nursing modules and papers, at both late undergraduate and postgraduate levels and as a ward/unit resource, this book should be seriously considered. References Whitehead D. (2003a) The health-promoting nurse as a policy expert and entrepreneur. Nurse Education Today 23, 585–592. Whitehead D. (2003b) Incorporating socio- political health promotion activities in nursing practice. Journal of Clinical Nursing 12, 668–677.

Dr Dean Whitehead
Flinders University

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This page is a summary of: Policy & Politics in Nursing and Health Care – 5th Edition, Journal of Clinical Nursing, May 2008, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2702.2007.01946.x.
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