Ethical Awareness: What It Is and Why It Matters

Aimee Milliken, PhD, RN

Disclosures

Online J Issues Nurs. 2018;23(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Given the complexity of contemporary healthcare environments, it is vital that nurses are able to recognize and address ethical issues as they arise. Though dilemmas and challenging situations create the most obvious, dramatic risks to patients, routine nursing actions have implications for patients as well. Ethical awareness involves recognizing the ethical implications of all nursing actions. Developing ethical awareness is one way to empower nurses to act as moral agents in order to provide patients with safe and ethical care. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the concept of ethical awareness and the role it plays in patient care. Background information is provided; three everyday scenarios highlight the importance of ethical awareness in everyday nursing practice; followed by additional discussion; and strategies for heightening ethical awareness are suggested. and is the first step in moral action.

Introduction

Given the complexity of contemporary healthcare environments, it is vital that nurses are able to recognize and address ethical issues as they arise. Ethical awareness involves recognizing the ethical implications of all nursing actions, and is the first step in moral action (Milliken & Grace, 2015). This means that nurses must first recognize the potential ethical repercussions of their actions in order to effectively resolve problems and address patient needs. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of ethical awareness and its important role in ethical nursing care. Three everyday scenarios highlight the importance of ethical awareness in everyday nursing practice. Finally, strategies for heightening ethical awareness in the clinical setting are suggested.

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