Critical Consciousness and Whole-Person Health of Public Health Nurses

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Critical Consciousness and Whole-Person Health of Public Health Nurses

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There is a need to understand the perspectives and wellbeing of public health nurses (PHNs). Critical consciousness is sociopolitical awareness and engagement to change oppressive systems. MyStrengths+MyHealth (MSMH) assesses health across environmental, psychosocial, physiological, and health behaviors domains. Study aims: (1) synthesize current research examining critical consciousness and health, (2) describe PHN critical consciousness, and (3) characterize PHN whole-person health. Methods Aim 1. A critical review of studies (n = 10) examining relationships between critical consciousness and health. Aim 2. PHNs (n = 173) completed the Short Critical Consciousness Scale (ShoCCS); results were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Aim 3. PHNs (n = 132) completed the MSMH; results were analyzed using exploratory data visualization. Results Aim 1. Multiple complex associations between critical consciousness and health (wellbeing, self-esteem, life satisfaction, affect, HIV markers, and smoking) were observed. Aim 2. PHNs scored highest in the Critical Motivation subscale, followed by Critical Reflection and Critical Action. PHNs who responded “strongly agree” for the question “Poor people have fewer chances to get ahead” vs. others differed in age (p = 0.039), work setting (p = 0.003), and role (p = 0.001) and scored higher in all subscales (p < 0.001). Aim 3. PHNs had more strengths than challenges and more challenges than needs. Four patterns were discovered: 1) an inverse relationship between strengths and challenges/needs; 2) many strengths; 3) Income needs; 4) fewest strengths in Sleeping, Emotions, Nutrition, and Exercise. Comparison of PHNs who reported strength in Income vs. others had more strengths (p < 0.001) and fewer challenges (p < 0.001) and needs (p = < 0.001). Conclusion Results from the survey align with existing research and demonstrate that PHNs have relatively high critical consciousness and are resilient. PHNs needs around health behaviors and mental health should be studied further. Future research is needed to identify causal factors.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2023. Major: Nursing. Advisor: Karen Monsen. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 105 pages.

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Pirsch, Ann. (2023). Critical Consciousness and Whole-Person Health of Public Health Nurses. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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