Nurse ethical awareness: Understanding the nature of everyday practice

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Abstract

Much attention has been paid to the role of the nurse in recognizing and addressing ethical dilemmas. There has been less emphasis, however, on the issue of whether or not nurses understand the ethical nature of everyday practice. Awareness of the inherently ethical nature of practice is a component of nurse ethical sensitivity, which has been identified as a component of ethical decision-making. Ethical sensitivity is generally accepted as a necessary precursor to moral agency, in that recognition of the ethical content of practice is necessary before consistent action on behalf of patient interests can take place. This awareness is also compulsory in ensuring patient good by recognizing the unique interests and wishes of individuals, in line with an ethic of care. Scholarly and research literature are used to argue that bolstering ethical awareness and ensuring that nurses understand the ethical nature of the role are an obligation of the profession. Based on this line of reasoning, recommendations for education and practice, along with directions for future research, are suggested.

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