Mapping the ethical journey of experienced nurses now practising in rural and remote hospitals in central and south-west Queensland and in domiciliary services in Brisbane : a grounded theory approach

Neil, Marjorie H. (2010) Mapping the ethical journey of experienced nurses now practising in rural and remote hospitals in central and south-west Queensland and in domiciliary services in Brisbane : a grounded theory approach. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

The aim of this thesis has been to map the ethical journey of experienced nurses now practising in rural and remote hospitals in central and south-west Queensland and in domiciliary services in Brisbane. One group of the experienced nurses in the study were Directors of Nursing in rural and remote hospitals. These nurses were “hands on”, “multi-skilled “ nurses who also had the task of managing the hospital. Also there were two Directors of Nursing from domiciliary services in Brisbane.

A grounded theory method was used. The nurses were interviewed and the data retrieved from the interviews was coded, categorised and from these categories a conceptual framework was generated. The literature which dealt with the subject of ethical decision making and nurses also became part of the data. The study revealed that all these nurses experienced moral distress as they made ethical decisions.

The decision making categories revealed in the data were: the area of financial management; issues as end of life approaches; allowing to die with dignity; emergency decisions; experience of unexpected death; the dilemma of providing care in very difficult circumstances. These categories were divided into two chapters: the category related to administrative and financial constraints and categories dealing with ethical issues in clinical settings. A further chapter discussed the overarching category of coping with moral distress. These experienced nurses suffered moral distress as they made ethical decisions, confirming many instances of moral distress in ethical decision making documented in the literature to date.

Significantly, the nurses in their interviews never mentioned the ethical principles used in bioethics as an influence in their decision making. Only one referred to lectures on ethics as being an influence in her thinking. As they described their ethical problems and how they worked through them, they drew on their own previous experience rather than any knowledge of ethics gained from nursing education. They were concerned for their patients, they spoke from a caring responsibility towards their patients, but they were also concerned for justice for their patients.

This study demonstrates that these nurses operated from the ethic of care, tempered with the ethic of responsibility as well as a concern for justice for their patients. Reflection on professional experience, rather than formal ethics education and training, was the primary influence on their ethical decision making.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 41844
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Jordan, Trevor & Isaacs, Peter
Keywords: ethical decision making, directors of nursing, grounded theory, storytelling, financial management, allowing to die with dignity, decisions as end of life approaches, emergency decisions, experience of unexpected death, providing care in very difficult circumstances, moral distress, ethical decisions, symbolic interactionism, rural and remote hospitals and nurses, information technology, country hospitals, patient transfer scheme (PTS), financial ethical decisions, ethics of caring and responsibility, justice and compassion
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 30 May 2011 06:05
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 20:02

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