Listening to nurses' moral voices: building a quality health care environment



Storch JL, Rodney P, Pauly B, Brown H & Starzomski R (2002) Listening to nurses' moral voices: building a quality health care environment. Canadian Journal of Nursing Leadership, 15 (4), pp. 7-16.

In this paper we describe a research project in nursing ethics aimed at exploring the meaning of ethics for nurses providing direct care with clients. This was a practice-based project in which participants who were staff nurses, nurses in advanced practice, and students in nursing were asked to tell us (or describe to us) how they thought about ethics in their practice, and what ethical practice meant to them. We then undertook to analyze, describe and understand the enactment of ethical practice, the opportunities for and barriers to such enactment, as well as the resources nurses need for ethical practice. We drew out implications of these findings for nursing leaders. We identified practice realities that create a climate for ethical or moral distress, and the way in which nurses attempt to maintain their moral agency. Practice realities included nurses' ethical concerns about policies guiding care; the financial, human and temporal resources available for care; and the power and conflicting loyalties nurses encounter inproviding good care. Maintaining moral agency involved use of a variety of ethical resources and the identification of resources needed to provide good care, as well as the processes used to enact moral agency. Nurse leaders are also moral agents. Important implications of these findings for nursing leaders are that they need moral courage to be self-reflective, to name their own moral distress, and to act so that their nursing staff are able to be moral agents. Nurse leaders need to be the moral compass for nurses, using their power as a positive force to promote, provide and sustain quality practice environments for safe, competent and ethical practice.

Canadian Journal of Nursing Leadership: Volume 15, Issue 4

Publication date30/11/2002
PublisherLongwoods Publishing

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Professor Bernadette Pauly

Professor Bernadette Pauly

Honorary Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences