The language used to describe nursing practice and nursing leadership has a profound influence on how nurses think about themselves, their work relationships, and indeed the very essence of their reason for being. Language often includes metaphor in order to help capture the complexities and layers of meaning that establish contexts for action. Nurses and others have relied on various metaphors to describe nursing work. However, there is one metaphor that, more than any other, has shaped the context of nursing work and formed the images and the meanings that nurses have of themselves and their purposes in practice. The privileged one is the military metaphor. This article explores the notion of metaphor, and its usefulness and potential to help nurses change their work patterns. The traditions and history of the military metaphor are examined and an alternative notion of the "frontier" is proposed in order to enhance understanding of the potential for change.
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