Assignment: Sociology helps us better understand the world, society and social institutions, and people around us. As a future allied health professional, a background knowledge in sociology can help you understand patient/client needs and connect with them.
For this discussion, conduct your own research on the relationship between sociology and health/healthcare
The study of human social relationships and organizations is known as sociology. The discussion of sociology is varied, spanning from crime to religion, from family to state, from racial and social class divisions to shared cultural values, and from social harmony to rapid change in entire societies. Sociology’s goal of understanding how human activity and consciousness shape and are shaped by surrounding cultural and social systems unifies the study of these disparate areas.
During the late 1970s, Engel’s criticism on the state of medicine was likely the spark for the emergence of the modern approach to healthcare. The flaw in medicine, according to Engel (1977), is its rigorous adherence to the biomedical model, which views illness to be the result of biological dysfunction in the body. The paradigm, according to Engel, ignored the social, psychological, and behavioral dimensions of sickness.
The biopsychosocial (BPS) paradigm, which developed as an alternative to the biomedical model, recognizes that the biological, psychological, and social domains all play a role in the progression of illness. Instead of being reduced to a single variable of biology, it suggests that ill health results from the interaction of causal factors at the biological, individual, and social levels (Borrell-Carrio et al, 2004).
Since Engel’s (1977) critique of the biological model, the BPS model is now the predominant point of reference, and the role of psychological and social elements has received wider acceptance. The BPS approach, on the other hand, continues to be dominated by biological understandings of health (McPherson, 2008). The model’s reliance on other aspects is, at best, wide, leading to accusations that it is both hollow and useless (Mulholland, 1997). It only provides a diluted grasp of the substantial role that material and social variables play to determine and contribute to the development and distribution of health in terms of social elements of poor health.
While it has been recognized, most recently and crucially by Marmot (2010), that special attention should be paid to the social causes of poor health, the BPS model does not provide nurses with social knowledge necessary to do so accurately. Health disparities are frequently rooted in society, with biological causes rarely acting independently of the social context (White, 2009). The amount of social material in nursing education, on the other hand, is insufficient to demonstrate the degree to which the foundations of health and welfare may be found in our social systems.
The nursing profession must connect with the social sciences individually, instead of depending on the BPS model to give a social awareness of health and wellbeing. This should help kids have a better knowledge of how society works and how it affects health. Despite the fact that the NHS’s culture is still dominated by a biological perspective, the NHS’s greater emphasis on preventative healthcare and public health demonstrates a consistent understanding of the social determinants of health (Campbell, 2010; Box 1). It is critical for health practitioners to have a deep sociological understanding of health and wellbeing if preventative and public healthcare are to become more effective and play a larger role.
The importance of sociology in nursing practice has been a point of contention, especially throughout the 1990s, when it was hotly debated. While supportive to sociology, Cooke (1993) stated that as nursing sought to establish itself as an academic discipline, by relying heavily on the biomedical model for its knowledge base, sociology was being suppressed since it was incompatible with the field’s ethos.
Sharp (1994) was a more vehement critic, whose criticism was based on his view of what nursing was. Sharp argued that because nursing is an action-oriented profession, it only needs to worry about knowledge that informs how to do tasks rather than gathering theoretical knowledge to explain why. He claimed that sociological knowledge belonged to the latter category, and that learning sociology would not benefit nurses in any way.
Nursing knowledge is based on the concept that there is “truthful” and “factual” understanding of the world that can be used to develop definite courses of action. Sociology, on the other hand, is marked by opposing perspectives, which, according to Sharp (1994), implies it cannot provide nurses with a solid foundation for action. In fact, sociology may be damaging; what would inform nursing practice if there was no means to distinguish between competing perspectives? Sharp observed that, while sociology’s academic aspect allowed nurses to acquire intellectual and critical thinking skills, it did not provide a source of knowledge that could be used to guide practical action.
Porter (1998; 1995) argued in favor of sociology, claiming that there was a growing recognition within the profession that health was influenced by a variety of factors, including cultural and social ones, and that nurses needed to understand the social determinants of health. This would allow them to comprehend the subjective experiences of patients, as people from different social groups have extremely different perspectives on the world (Porter, 1995).
Porter also slammed Sharp’s assertion that nurses just need to know how to perform tasks, arguing that they must make decisions and judgments about the activities they conduct, necessitating a body of knowledge from which to draw. He believed sociology provided an excellent knowledge basis because of its benefits. Porter also disagreed with Sharp’s assertion that sociology is riven by divergent viewpoints, though he admitted that the discipline is not as well-coordinated as the natural sciences. However, he argued that this did not exclude them from using sociology to make educated decisions about how to carry out their duties (Porter, 1995; Sharp, 1994).
Understanding your clients
If they want to provide the finest service, all professions must have a thorough awareness of their client base. In order to give the best possible care, nurses must first learn who their clients are and who they are likely to be caring for. Sociology may provide this knowledge, making it valuable theoretical information; one of its main benefits is that it prepares nurses for the issues they will face in their careers (McPherson, 2008).
Practitioners with a thorough understanding of the social distribution of health have a better understanding of the wide range of patients they are likely to encounter, as well as the health issues that are common among people from various social backgrounds. When the benefits of this are considered in relation to the area where a nurse works, the advantages become evident.
Understanding your social structure
All regions have sociological traits, with some social groups and issues dominating. For example, a hospital in a poor neighborhood can expect a higher proportion of clients from lower socioeconomic classes, single mothers, and probably minority groups, while alcohol and drug misuse, as well as the problems of poverty like unhealthy diet and inadequate housing, may be more prominent than in more affluent areas. Nurses should be informed of the sociological makeup of the community in which they work, since this will give them a better grasp of the types of people they will be caring for and the difficulties they will face as professionals.
Nurses can also improve the quality of patient care by using sociological information. Understanding a patient’s cultural environment can give you a lot of information about how they see the world, especially when it comes to health and care. This helps nurses to reflect on their interactions with patients from various socioeconomic backgrounds (McPherson, 2008), taking into account what matters to them and attempting to see the world through their eyes. Sociology is important for this since people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds have different perspectives on the world and may require different caring abilities and behaviors.
While it has an important function to play in acute situations, a deep sociological understanding is necessary for practice in the community (McPherson, 2008). It is especially important in terms of public and preventative health.
Preventative and public health
This approach to healthcare aims to prevent the onset and spread of illness by controlling and managing the development and dispersion of disease before it affects individuals. In terms of philosophy, it strongly supports the social determinants of health approach. On the one hand, it encourages individuals to make small lifestyle changes, while on the other, it focuses more drastic efforts on transforming bigger political, economic, and social systems to address challenges like poverty, unemployment, and inequality (Richmond and Germov, 2012).
The promotion of preventive healthcare and public health has become more of a necessity in the current political and economic climate of lower public sector spending, increased demands on the health service, and escalating medical treatment expenses. It is thought to be a cost-effective utilization of resources (Naylor et al, 2013).
According to evidence, the most significant changes in the population’s health status over the last century have been attributable to social progress rather than medical improvements (Germov, 2012), hence the benefits of preventative and public health activities appear obvious. Furthermore, given the current political and economic climate, such actions appear to be unavoidable.
Patients and service users in the community remain in the environment, which contributes to their ill health. Nurses will have a better grasp of persons and the circumstances that contribute to their poor health if they have prior thorough sociological knowledge. Community nurses can develop a more detailed knowledge of the lifestyles of different social groups by understanding the social circumstances that lead to ill health and how social groups are affected in different ways. They can then offer advice on changes patients and service users can make in their own environment to improve their health. In this way, sociology is critical for the advancement of preventative healthcare in the future.
Social progress and a more equitable society
Despite the BPS model’s dominance, nursing and nurse education is still one-dimensional (Goodman, 2011), populated by the biological point of view on health. Because of the current lack of focus on society, it lacks any critical edge and is unable to debate current social agreements in place and their health impacts (Goodman, 2011). Sociology, on the other hand, equips nurses with this expertise, boosting a critical understanding of people’s social conditions and what continues to threaten their health. This opens up the possibility of promoting social change. This should go beyond simply recommending lifestyle changes, which focuses on individuals having to change their own behavior (and may be interpreted as blaming them for their poor health).
Nurses may become effective advocates for a fairer and more just society if they understand how society works and how it affects health. They can eliminate the social causes that contribute to the development of poor health and its unequal distribution. Similarly, although sociological knowledge prepares nurses for the obstacles they will face, they may also pass this information on to patients, allowing them to face their own challenges. Patients gain the ability to confront their circumstances and improve their own well-being, both through individual lifestyle adjustments and, more radically, by attacking the system that is creating their health inequity.
This article has offered a brief outline of the frequently tense relationship between sociology and nursing, advocating for the benefits and possibilities of nurses having a thorough understanding of sociology. The subsequent articles in this series will show how a social view of health can bring knowledge and advantages.
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