|May 28, 2014|
My nursing career began in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit—a place of high intensity, great promise and profound grief. One of the cases that kept me up at night involved a young child who was left with irreversible brain damage as a result of an unusual accident. His parents wanted the life-sustaining technology to be discontinued; the medical team unwilling to do so because of legal concerns.
He lived in our unit—tethered to a breathing machine and tube feedings for more than a year until his body finally succumbed to death. Each day I cared for him, I felt the knot in my stomach twinge as I dutifully implemented his daily litany of treatments—all the while wondering, “Why are we doing this? How do I make sense of my role as a nurse—as a protector of life, reliever of suffering and advocate for the interests of this patient and his family? ”
Ethical issues are part of the fabric of nursing. Everyday, nurses working in a variety of settings, roles, and geographic locations, are confronted with vexing questions about how to maintain their integrity when the ethical terrain is uncertain or complex. Many struggle to articulate the issues, their obligations, and how to proceed when there are conflicting paths that can be taken. When such issues are not recognized or resolved, many nurses experience moral distress in response to threats to their integrity. Over time, these unresolved issues can accumulate and undermine nurse’s ability to provide high quality and safe care.
The Johns Hopkins University, School of Nursing & Berman Institute of Bioethics are launching a national dialogue with nurses to understand the contours of the ethical challenges that face the nursing profession.
What are the issues and dilemmas that keep you and/or nurses you know up at night?
We invite you to join us in exploring this question. In August, 2014 we will convene a diverse working group comprised of nurse ethicists and leaders from major nursing organizations to begin the process of developing recommendations to address the most pressing ethical challenges faced by nurses today and looking out on the horizon. Ahead of that meeting, we want to hear from you.
In the next few months, we will host conversations on our blog through a series of Nursing Ethics posts. We encourage you to share your insights and experiences.
We will also host a series of #NursingEthics Twitter chats. Starting June 3rd, these will occur on biweekly (June 17, July 1, July 15, July 29, August 12) Tuesdays at 8pm using the hashtag #nursingethics. (Twitter chats will be recorded via Storify and posted on our blog for those who don’t use Twitter or miss a scheduled chat).
Please let your friends and colleagues know about our conversations as well. Hopefully, together we can find a path towards fewer sleepless nights.
More in the #NursingEthics Series:
- Respect & Dignity, By Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN
- Moral Environments and Ethical Climates, By Catharine Robichaux, PhD, RN, CNS
- Ethical Competence in Nursing, by Catharine Robichaux, PhD, RN, CNS
- #NursingEthics Twitter Chat Page (including transcripts of prior chats)
- Nursing Ethics Summit
Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the Anne and George L. Bunting Professor of Clinical Ethics. She holds a joint appointment in the Johns Hopkins University schools of Nursing and Medicine – Department of Pediatrics – and is a founding member and core faculty at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics