The Sick Role and Application in the Nursing Practice


The processes of life were being born, growing old, having illness, and death. In our life, we suffered from different sickness. It was a good reason for the absent from school, work or other daily working activities. However, in the view of a sociologist, the people who were in the sick role, they were regarded as having committed a crime and it was treated as deviant behavior (Peter & Meredith, 1998). In the structural functional model, people took various tasks and role in society or in different institutions. These were dependable with the structures and norms of the society. Did sickness have any effective elements in society? This paper would describe the concept of sick role and the application in the nursing practice (Parson, 1979).

Concept of sick role

Talcott Parsons (1902 – 1979) was a famous American sociologist and a structural functionalist. He developed a general theoretical system for analyzing the society. In his theoretical system, people hold their status and perform their role in the society, which was called social role. In his concept, the social roles were expected behaviors (including rights and obligations) of everyone with a given position in society (Diligio, 2005). This kind of social role maintained the structural and functional status of the society. I used Mr. Lee as an example to illustrate about the social roles. Mr. Lee was a registered nurse. He lived with his wife and his daughter. According to the Parsons’s theoretical system, Mr. Lee has three social roles. At hospital, he took a role as a nurse. He cared his patients. At home, he took a role as husband to his wife and a role as father to his daughter.

The sick role was first defined by Talcott Parsons (1951) in his seminal work which was describing a set of behaviors. These behaviors were associated with people who became acutely ill. As described by Parsons, the sick role was a process in which an individual experiences a change in role identity or role expectations. As a result, people were suffered from the illness. Base of the Parsons, there were some components in the sick role. Firstly, the illness was involuntary. Secondly, residents of the sick role were exempted from their usual work; family, civic and permits to be “take care of” by health care professionals and others. Thirdly, other obligations- residents expected to do what they can to restore their health. Lastly, residents expected to seek for help in their efforts to restore their health….




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