Time to disable the labels that disable: the power of words in nursing and health care with women, children, and families

ANS Adv Nurs Sci. Apr-Jun 2012;35(2):113-26. doi: 10.1097/ANS.0b013e31824fe6ae.


Nursing is grounded in communication with others, yet rarely are the words critiqued. Despite an ethical call to honor diversity, promote empowerment, and to do no harm, some of the language used in health care reflects historical prejudices, reductionism, and/or the overarching authority of medical or moral models. This article exposes some of the "harsh words" nurses sometimes unconsciously use, and it suggests alternatives. Influenced by an ethic of social justice and the ethic of relationship with others, an attempt will be made to explore nursing language with women and children. Implications for nursing philosophy and practice will be discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Child
  • Communication*
  • Delivery of Health Care / ethics*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nurse-Patient Relations / ethics*
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Nursing Care / ethics*
  • Prejudice
  • Social Justice