Being a Good Nurse and Doing the Right Thing: a qualitative study

Nursing Ethics 9 (3):301-312 (2002)
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Despite an abundance of theoretical literature on virtue ethics in nursing and health care, very little research has been carried out to support or refute the claims made. One such claim is that ethical nursing is what happens when a good nurse does the right thing. The purpose of this descriptive, qualitative study was therefore to examine nurses’ perceptions of what it means to be a good nurse and to do the right thing. Fifty-three nurses responded to two open-ended questions: (1) a good nurse is one who...; and (2) how does a nurse go about doing the right thing? Three hundred and thirty-one data units were analysed using qualitative content analysis. Seven categories emerged: personal characteristics, professional characteristics, patient centredness, advocacy, competence, critical thinking and patient care. Participants viewed ethical nursing as a complex endeavour in which a variety of decision-making frameworks are used. Consistent with virtue ethics, high value was placed on both intuitive and analytical personal attributes that nurses bring into nursing by virtue of the persons they are. Further investigation is needed to determine just who the ‘good nurse’ is, and the nursing practice and education implications associated with this concept



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