Evaluation of ethical reflections in community healthcare: A mixed-methods study

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Abstract

Background:

Ethical reflections over care practices are important. In order to be able to perform such reflections, healthcare professionals must learn to think critically about their care practice.

Aim:

The aim of this study was to evaluate whether an introduction to and practice in ethical reflections in community healthcare have consequences for the healthcare personnel's practice.

Research design:

A mixed-methods design was adopted with five focus group interviews and an electronic questionnaire based on results from the interviews.

Participants and research context:

A total of 29 community healthcare personnel with experience in ethical reflections participated in the interviews. The electronic questionnaire was sent via email to 2382 employees in community healthcare services in 13 municipalities in southern part of Norway.

Ethical considerations:

The study was guided by the intentions of the Declaration of Helsinki and ethical standard principles and approved by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services.

Results:

An introduction to and practice in performing ethical reflections brought about an ethical awareness with understanding and respect for both colleagues and patients. The leader had a key role. Lack of time was a hindrance for ethical reflections. Three factors could predict meaningful ethical reflections: higher age of personnel, higher percentage of employment and longer experience with ethical reflections.

Discussion:

According to other studies, ethical reflections may enhance moral development of colleagues and their actions as advocates for the patients. A deepened ethical awareness, professional competency and sufficient time resources will guarantee proper caregiving.

Conclusion:

A supportive environment that prioritizes participation in reflection meetings is decisive. To practice ethical reflections will provide better care for patients. A challenge for the community healthcare system is to offer adequate positions that provide the personnel an opportunity to be involved as caregivers and to participate in ethical reflections.

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