Academics and practitioners: nurses as intellectuals

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In the author's experience, nurse educators working in universities generally accept that they are ‘academics’, but dismiss suggestions that they are ‘intellectuals’ because they see it as a pretentious description referring to a small number of academics and aesthetes who inhabit a conceptual world beyond the imaginative capacity of most other people. This paper suggests that the concept of the ‘intellectual’, if not the word itself, be admitted into nursing discourse through the adoption of a non-élitist Gramscian understanding, similar to the more recently formulated conception of the reflective practitioner. According to the Italian Marxist scholar Antonio Gramsci, intellectuals are those people who develop ways in which to construct the conditions of their own existence, a possibility he believed was open to all. It is suggested that, from a Gramscian perspective, all nurses are intellectuals to varying degrees, and nurse educators should not only be nurturing their own intellectualism but also the potential for intellectualism as it exists within each individual. The ways in which this project are related to Habermasian critical theory are also briefly outlined.

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