Addressing ethical concerns arising in nursing and midwifery students’ reflective assignments

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Abstract

Background:

Written reflections on practice are frequently requirements of nursing curricula. They are widely accepted as necessary for improving critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Faculty, are expected to review reflections and provide feedback that helps professional development and facilitates good practice. It is less clear what the actions of nurse educators should be when ethical infractions are revealed in the narratives.

Objectives:

We had two aims: 1) To combine insights from a literature review of empirical and theoretical research related to responding to ethical issues revealed in student reflections with our experiences reviewing the reflections of undergraduate nursing and midwifery students, and 2) to construct and analyze a hybrid case from these insights in order to develop guidelines for nurse educators.

Research Design:

A literature review was conducted using CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, SocINDEX and ERIC databases and pertinent key words. A hybrid case was constructed of commonly encountered ethical issues using insights from the literature review and the authors’ experiences. The case was analyzed by combining Beauchamp and Childress’ principlist approach with Campbell and McCarthy’s ethical decision-making tool (Table 1).

Participants and Research Context:

No human participants

Findings:

A gap in the literature exists related to addressing ethical issues revealed in student practice reflections. However, a combination of insights from the literature and the authors’ experiences facilitated the development of a hybrid case. Subsequent case analysis facilitated the development of a series of guidelines that can be utilized to address a range of issues commonly emerging in the reflections of nursing students during practice experiences.

Discussion:

A number of recommendations and guidelines are provided to enable the safeguarding of students and staff and support them in practicing ethically.

Conclusion:

Structured ethical analysis of a constructed hybrid reflection of commonly revealed ethical issues was useful in developing guidelines for educators.

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