Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Nursing ethics & the ethics of care

Nurses encounter ethical dilemmas in their daily work. But there are also moral dimensions to nursing practice.

Nursing and caring

Nursing ethics is concerned with the moral dimensions of nursing practice while the ethics of care is a normative ethical theory. For many years CRB has developed these fields from different angles. We have used qualitative studies to describe and explore the kinds of ethical dilemmas nurses encounter in their day-to-day work and how they solve them. Other studies have investigated the role of ethical guidelines in the building of ethical competence in nursing practice and in priority setting.

The focus in nursing ethics research is on the relationship between the nurse and the person receiving care. A central question is what the nurse can do for the person in need of care and how a respectful meeting could take place, despite the asymmetry in the relationship between nurse and patient. Nursing ethics focuses more on developing caring relationships than on broader ethical principles. The concept of ‘caring’ has priority over the concept of ‘curing’ and how a person should ‘be’ rather than how they should act is stressed. As a result, virtue ethics have often been elaborated within the framework of nursing ethics.

The concept of ‘care’ is often defined as a practice, but at the same time as a value and an ideal that can guide normative judgments and actions. This tradition is often contrasted with duty based (deontological) and consequentialist (utilitarian) ethics. It argues for embodied relations and emotions to be part of moral judgments.

Nursing Ethics & Ethics of Care

Nursing ethics is concerned with the moral dimensions of nursing practice while the ethics of care is a normative ethical theory. For many years CRB has developed these fields from different angles. We have used qualitative studies to describe and explore the kinds of ethical dilemmas nurses encounter in their day-to-day work and how they solve them. Other studies have investigated the role of ethical guidelines in the building of ethical competence in nursing practice and in priority setting. In this report, we provide a summary of our research.

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Nursing ethics & ethics of care