Moral neutralization: Nurses’ evolution in unethical climate workplaces

BMC Medical Ethics 21 (1):1-10 (2020)
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Abstract

Introduction Good quality of care is dependent on nurses’ strong clinical skills and moral competencies, as well. While most nurses work with high moral standards, the moral performance of some nurses in some organizations shows a deterioration in their moral sensitivity and actions. The study reported in this paper aimed to explore the experiences of nurses regarding negative changes in their moral practice. Materials and methods This was a qualitative study utilizing an inductive thematic analysis approach, which was conducted from February 2017 to September 2019. Twenty-five nurses participated in semi-structured interviews. Results The main theme that emerged from our analysis was one of moral neutralization in the context of an unethical moral climate. We found five sub-themes, including: feeling discouraged; normalization; giving up; becoming a justifier; and moral indifference. Conclusions Unethical moral climates in health organizations can result in deterioration of morality in nurses which can harm both patients and health systems. Some unethical behaviors in nurses can be explained by this process.

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