Nursing and the Ethical Dimension of Practice
Nurses are important to patients. Nurses touch people’s lives during some of the peaks and troughs of human existence. Therefore it is important that we think about nurses and nursing. What do our patients require from nurses and how do we, as a society, as nurses, and as health service leaders, meet patient need? The first step is to recognise that nursing, as a practice, has moral values at its core. The nurse-patient relationship, which is central to the provision of nursing care, has ethical importance and is of ethical significance. It is also vital to consider that the context within which nurses practice can shape and be shaped by the moral values of nursing. These moral values form what can be termed the ethical dimension of nursing. It is therefore important that we explore and examine these moral values. Codes of conduct are examples of the nursing profession’s collective attempt to express its underlying values. The institutions within which nurses work help or hinder the actual expression of these values in nursing practice and patient care. We need to recognise the interplay of these various factors in order to ensure that we as nurses, as potential patients, and as members of society understand what good nursing practice means, what it looks like in practice, and how it can be supported. This chapter sets out to identify the ethical domain of nursing practice, and signal its relevance for good nursing care and a safe, supportive patient experience. The chapters which follow provide theoretical and conceptual lenses through which to identify, analyse and discuss ethical issues in nursing practice, with a view to providing tools for the nurse to practice in an ethically sensitive and appropriate manner.
KeywordsEthical domain Nurse-patient relationship Nursing ethics Patient-centred care Codes of conduct
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