Ethical Moments in Practice: the nursing 'how are you?' revisited

Nursing Ethics 11 (1):53-62 (2004)
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Abstract

In seeking for an understanding of ethical practices in health care situations, our challenge is always both to recognize and respond to the call of individuals in need. In attuning ourselves to the call of the vulnerable other an ethical moment arises. Asking ‘how are you?’ in health care practice is our very first possibility to learn how a particular person finds herself or himself in this particular situation. Here, ‘how are you?’ shows itself as an ethical question that opens up a relational space that calls forth a response. It is a way to understand the situated moments in which we are already that enables us to act respectfully. Our ethical frameworks assist us in trying to decide what is the right thing to do given a set of circumstances. Yet there is a prior step that already calls us to ethical attention; this is when we ask ‘how are you?’, which transforms a seemingly small interaction into an ethical moment. ‘How are you?’ is a question that turns us back to who we are as health care professionals and calls us to be more deeply attentive to the moment. When we sincerely ask ‘how are you?’ we enact our ethical commitments to one another

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