While nurses can and do behave as intentional political agents, claims that nurses collectively do (empiric), should (normative) or must (regulatory) act to advance political objectives lack credibility. This paper challenges the coherence and legitimacy of political demands placed upon nurses. It is not suggested that nurses ought not to contribute to political discourse and activity. That would be foolish. However, the idea that nursing can own or exhibit a general political will is discarded. It is suggested that to protect and advance political discussion, to aid explanatory adequacy and clarity, the form in which nursing associates itself with political claims merits critical appraisal. Thus significant numbers of nurses probably reject or disagree with many of the political claims that attach to them--claims often made on their behalf. More specifically, the individual beliefs and goals of nurses can be in conflict with the political pronouncements of nursing scholars and organizations (group agents). It is proposed that nurses need not share substantive normative beliefs/goals and, if this proposal holds, group descriptors such as 'nurses' and 'nursing' cannot meaningfully or easily attach to political claims. Shared value theory is linked to the fallacy of composition and the concept of collective ascription error is introduced to explore the implausibility of using group descriptors such as 'nurses' and 'nursing' to refer to the beliefs/goals of all nurses.
Keywords: nursing philosophy; philosophy of nursing.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.