The role of guidelines in ethical competence-building: perceptions among research nurses and physicians

Clinical Ethics 5 (2):95-102 (2010)
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The aim of the present study was to describe and explore the perception of ethical guidelines and their role in ethical competence-building among Swedish physicians and research nurses. Twelve informants were interviewed in depth. The results demonstrated that the informants had a critical attitude towards ethical guidelines and claimed to make little use of them in practical moral judgements. Ethical competence was seen primarily as character-building, related to virtues such as being empathic, honest and loyal to patients. Ethical competence was assumed to be learned through good examples, role models and practical experience, while ethical guidelines were not perceived as valuable in this process. In order to improve the staff's familiarity with and the usability of ethical guidelines, the workplace needs to provide opportunities for ethical dialogues. In such discussions, argumentation can improve, virtues can be developed and guidelines can be usefully invoked



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