The political, technological and economic changes that have occurred over the past decade are increasingly difficult to manage within the traditional framework of health-care, and the organisation of health-care is seen to need radical reform to sweep away many of the internal barriers that now divide one form of health-care, and one profession, from another. Nursing must equip itself with skills in advocacy and political action to influence the direction the system will take. Nursing currently suffers from a weakness in self-concept that goes hand in hand with a weakness in political status, and nursing leadership must build the foundations for both advocacy for others and self-advocacy for the nursing movement. The profession faces tensions between different conceptions of its role and status, its relationship to medicine, and its relationship to health. Health indices are tightly linked to status, and to trust, hope, and control of one's own life. Can nurses help empower others when they are not particularly good at empowering themselves? What will the role of the nurse be in creating the information flows that will guide people toward health? Nursing's long history of adaptation to an unsettled and negotiated status may mean that it is better fitted to make this adaptation than other more confident disciplines.