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September 2023 Nursing Blog

September 2023 Nursing Blog

A google search of the meaning of the word freedom reveals similar answers and congruent with the following definition:  “ the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint,” or the “the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved” (Dictionary, 2023, para1). What is it that inspires and brings to life a quest for freedom? The movie “Braveheart,” Paramount Pictures 1995 film adaptation of William Wallace’s historic 13th century pursuit of Scotland’s freedom from British rule (Gibson, 1995), thrilled countless audiences with the final cry of William Wallace’s character, “Freedom!” This cry was uttered while Wallace was breathing his last breath under the hand of the executioner, and after the audience witnessed the cruelty and deprivations handed out to the Scottish people through incursions of the British military throughout the movie. The level of empathy engendered on the part of the audience watching the movie became a righteous outcry for justice. Is this what freedom is really all about – a call for freedom from injustice? Is the antecedent to a call for freedom a strong sense of injustice occurring and being tolerated? Some believe this. If so, we can surmise that the human spirit can only bear injustice so long, then an outcry for freedom rises, reaches a unified determination, and then strikes out powerfully against the source of the injustice. Sometimes, the “group” gets the source of the injustice right, and sometimes there is skewered perception which leads to targeting the wrong source. We can all have a “blind spot” or “blind spots”, so to speak, misperceptions born out of factors we are not aware of at the time. Behavioral economist, Dan Ariely’s 2008 Ted Talk, titled “Predictably Irrational” illustrates the deceptive nature of human perceptions – and the consequences of decision-making based on those misperceptions - through a number of demonstrations. Perception, and in turn the consequent actions made based on those perceptions, are highly susceptible to influence and manipulation without careful observation and reasoned analysis.

A phenomenon called groupthink takes over, leaving the source of the injustice untouched or slightly scathed, while the innocent party, group, or organizational source bears the brunt of another injustice, singled out and targeted without cause (Psychology Today, 2023). 

Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people makes irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to conform or the belief that dissent is impossible. The problematic or premature consensus that is characteristic of groupthink may be fueled by a particular agenda—or it may be due to group members valuing harmony and coherence above critical thought (Psychology Today, 2023, para 1).

Talk with any number of nurses in 2023, and you will find that there is a longing, a stirring, for freedom deep within the soul of nursing. The “boat is about to be rocked,” so to speak, or in common vernacular, “something’s gotta give.” I hope we get it right, that is, I hope we get it right about the source. There is a clarion call for freedom in the midst of perceived injustice in the nursing workplace, the outcry of dire working conditions and poor staffing. The perceived injustice is about to reach a fever pitch. The danger here is not the freedom nurses long for there. The danger is the rising unified voice and determination against the workplace injustice needs to be unified against the true source of the injustice for needed change to occur. That source is not a singular entity but a complex system of factors, all intertwined, like tree roots and broken branches under water, not visible until your little canoe hits them and topples over, leaving you to struggle while searching for something solid to grab onto. The nursing process, the foundation of basic nurse assessment and problem-solving skill, is a tremendous source for determining potential sources leading to deviations from wellness (Toney-Butler & Thayer, 2023). However, in the present situation with a rising angst among nurses over workplace conditions, there is a real and present danger of “getting it wrong” about the source.

What are we to do … how can we nurses find the freedom we need to adequately carry out our role in difficult times, circumstances, workplaces? I am sharing thoughts from Psychologist Dr. Sandra Parker (2023) which I find profound and applicable at this time in a solid grounding for nurses.

Unrest is the most powerful tool we have to promote our personal growth, as long as we know what to do with it. Freedom is not being free of anxious sensations; it is being able to face, feel, and soothe them, to access the wisdom of emotion—the adaptive emotions that want to help us come to terms with reality, when reality does not bend to our will (Parker, 2023, para. 4).

The bottom line, as I think again of Dr. Parker’s sage advice, is that though we work as a team, as a group, we as nurses must gain and maintain a clear sense of our own individual reality, needs, and goals. We must correctly interpret and use our internal unrest to move toward individual and group wholeness. A unified force with accurate understanding of complex factors and systems is a mighty force in the march against workplace injustice.

Additional education toward a higher degree in nursing provides a deep learning environment to grow and enrich skills in critical thinking and reasoned analysis, the very skills needed to match the demands of the current challenges facing nurses and the nursing profession. Come and grow with us at Ottawa University Nursing!  


Ariely, Dan (December 2008). Predictably irrational. [Video]. Ted Talk

Dictionary (2023). Freedom.


Gibson, M. (1995). Braveheart. Paramount Pictures.

Psychology Today (2023). Groupthink.

Toney-Butler, T.J., Thayer, J.M. (2023). Nursing Process. StatPearls Publishing.



Posted: 09/08/2023
Updated: 09/08/2023 by Dr. Ruth L.M. Burkhart, DNP, MA, RN-BC, LPCC
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