Maintaining a nursing ethic : a grounded theory of the moral practice of experienced nurses : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Nursing, Massey University
This thesis presents a study of the every-day moral decision making of experienced nurses. Eight experienced registered nurses participated in the completed research that is based on data gathered through interviews, document audit and literature review. A grounded theory approach was used to analyse the extensive data gathered for the study. This methodology generated a theoretical description involving the antecedents, processes and consequences of nursing moral decision making. Nursing practice has a moral content, if not an entirely moral purpose, and moral decision making is the central component of this practice. Every day, in numerous institutions and community settings, registered nurses make moral decisions in their practice, yet the ethical aspects of nursing practice remain a comparatively recent field of study. It is therefore essential to nurses and their patients that this process is adequately studied and theorised. To date, very few studies have been undertaken in this area in New Zealand. This study aims to at least partially redress this situation by offering insights through conceptualisation and theoretical description of nursing moral decision making. The findings of the study reveal that antecedents such as personal moral development, upbringing and social experiences, contribute to a 'nursing ethic' that guided the moral decision making of the experienced nurses who participated in the study. Furthermore, the study shows that the context and individual and shared perceptions of moral events influence the degree of nursing involvement in ethical situations. Finally, the study maintains that an intrinsic and enduring nursing ethic may serve to guide ethical decision making in nursing. This ethic is an undeniable phenomenon of considerable significance to nursing practice and education.