Ethical Decision-Making In An Emergency Department: Findings On Nursing Advocacy

Monash Bioethics Review 28 (2):38-53 (2009)
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The purpose of this article is to share with the reader the specific findings on the role of nurse as consumer advocate from a study on ethical decision-making in an emergency department (ED). Qualitative interviews were conducted with 11 health professionals (doctors and nurses) working in the ED of a hospital. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed.In ED, where the decision-making is described as medico-centric, advocacy ipso facto necessitates a challenge to doctor decision-making. The findings indicate that ED nurses experience with advocacy varied depending on the democratic qualities and communication skills of the particular doctor who had care of the consumer. It is noted that seeing the need for advocacy does not necessarily translate into effective action, as management support is essential for productive advocacy. A phenomenon of the desire not to rock the boat was reported. The findings indicate that the support of other nurses is essential for advocacy and affirm the importance of focusing on the ethical nature of the organisation as opposed to an exclusive focus on the individual.



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