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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton July 27, 2005

Information empowers but who is empowered?

  • Jill Kealley , Colleen Smith and Bill Winser


This article presents part of the findings of a study that examined an information pamphlet written by nurses and given to relatives of patients in a Critical Care Unit (CCU) in an Australian acute care hospital. The pamphlet, Information for Relatives, was analyzed using Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and examines how a relatives' information pamphlet written by nurses constructs the reader-relatives' view of a Critical Care Unit. The results revealed how the language chosen by the nurse-writers of this pamphlet acts to restrict and constrain the reader-relatives while constructing the staff as ethical experts. Furthermore, it questions the notion that all information empowers healthcare clients and demonstrates how this information pamphlet is not value free but has embedded in it social values of the culture from which it emanates. The pamphlet empowers the writers and staff, not the relatives.


Address for correspondence: University of South Australia, Division of Health Sciences, City East Campus, North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia. E-mail:

Published Online: 2005-07-27
Published in Print: 2004-09-29

© Walter de Gruyter

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