Landmark Articles From Volumes 31-40 / Des articles-jalons tirés des volumes 31 à 40 - Navigating Towards a Moral Horizon: A Multisite Qualitative Study of Ethical Practice in Nursing

Paddy Rodney, Colleen Varcoe, Janet L. Storch, Gladys McPherson, Karen Mahoney, Helen Brown, Bernadette Pauly, Gwen Hartrick, Rosalie Starzomski


This paper reports the results of a qualitative study of nurses' ethical decision-making. Focus groups of nurses in diverse practice contexts were used as a means to explore the meaning of ethics and the enactment of ethical practice. The findings centre on the metaphor of a moral horizon - the horizon representing "the good" towards which the nurses were navigating. The findings suggest that currents within the moral climate of nurses' work significantly influence nurses' progress towards their moral horizon. All too often the nurses found themselves navigating against a current characterized by the privileging of biomedicine and a corporate ethos. Conversely, a current of supportive colleagues as well as professional guidelines and standards and ethics education helped them to move towards their horizon. The implications for nursing practice and for our understanding of ethical decision-making are discussed.

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