Social and behavioural sciences are established components in the curriculum of undergraduate nursing degrees. The purpose is to introduce future and practising nurses to the social and political influences which inform their workplaces and practices. Inevitably an awareness of the structural barriers and the powerful political interests involved in health can lead to feelings of powerlessness and despair of achieving change. Yet the skills of critical analysis and political awareness developed in study such as this are essential for health workers in the increasingly complex and politically charged domain in which they work. This paper will explore problems and barriers encountered in development of curriculum and teaching social and behavioural sciences in health. It will propose an alternative conceptual model, based on post-structuralism, as one way of addressing these barriers. This approach shifts the focus from meta-theoretical sociological concepts such as class, gender and culture, to one of examining subject positions, discourse, contestation and local action, thus enabling the exploration and development of possibilities for change. The paper will also provide a case study to illustrate this alternative approach.