Accountability in Nursing Education

Dorothy J. Kergin


In nursing education, and in nursing in general, we frequently hear the words "responsibility" and "accountability" used together in the same sentence. In developing this paper for presentation it was necessary to untangle the two and place the primary emphasis upon only one _ accountability. The topic leads to a series of questions: What is it to be accountable? To whom are nursing education programmes accountable? For what are they accountable? And by whose or what expectations?
Definitions provided by commonly used dictionaries define accountable as "liable to be called to account, or to answer for responsibilities and conduct; answerable, responsible. Chiefly of persons _ to a person, for a thing." (Oxford, 1933). Both of the Oxford (1933) and Webster (1966) dictionaries list "responsible" as one of the synonyms of "accountable". Webster's (1966) distinguishes "accountable" from its synonyms "responsible" and "answerable" as follows:
Responsible may differ from answerable and accountable in centering attention on a formal organizational role, function, duty, or trust.
Answerable is more likely to be used in situations involving moral or legal obligations or duty under judgement.
Accountable may be used in situations involving imminence of retribution for unfulfilled trust or violated obligations (p. 1935).

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