The Tough Work of Ethical Caring

teaWhether working with patients, teaching (or learning) in nursing school, or active in research, if you’re a nurse you are likely to agree that it is tough to be consistently moral, faithful, and conscientious.

Ethics is threaded through the practice and education of nursing in every dimension. Workplace incivility, end-of-life decisions, patient confidentiality, and providing appropriate spiritual care versus pushing your faith are topics that commonly compel nurses to question what is ethical as a Christ-following nurse. Other times, ethics makes us look at ourselves and our need for care.

Journal of Christian Nursing contributor Marcia Fowler’s recent column, “Moving Beyond Dilemma Ethics,” turns the eye of ethical inspection back to the nurse. Fowler wrote, “Nursing is a profession of extra-ordinary demands, not infrequently life-saving, health-preserving demands for others. Nurses are tempted not only to put their own well-being last, but perhaps even to neglect their well-being. It could be argued that the nurse must observe duties to self so that patient care will not suffer. Although there is some truth to that, it is better argued that duties to self benefit the nurse personally, as a person of worth and dignity. That the patient benefits is a bonus.”

“How are we to understand duties to self through the lens of faith?” asked Fowler, PhD, MDiv, MS, RN, FAAN, who was co-lead writer and “Historian and Code Scholar” on the 2015 revision of the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements. She proposed that “Many points of contact with faith appear, for example, as a duty of stewardship, a duty to affirm life (of which health is an aspect), and a duty to embrace and develop God-given gifts. Stewardship includes my life, health, well-being, and gifts. I'm challenged and have a duty to acknowledge my own worth and dignity.”

In sharpening our grasp of Christian ethics, Marcia Fowler urges us to consider these questions for reflection: “Where have I failed to affirm my own dignity and worth? What initial step can I take to turn toward the life-giving and affirming joy of the duties to self that God has given me?”

Marcia Fowler authors the Christian Ethics column in the Journal of Christian Nursing. Subscriptions are included in NCF membership, along with myriad other benefits.

Additional Resources

Article: Faith and Ethics, Covenant and Code: The 2015 Revision of the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements

Book: Commitment and Responsibility in Nursing: A Review

JCN Topical Collection on Ethics


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