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Understanding Ethics for Nursing Students

Understanding Ethics for Nursing Students

Second Edition

June 2017 | 176 pages | Learning Matters

From the start of their nursing programme it is essential that nursing students understand the significance of ethics and how it will impact the decisions they make on a daily basis. This book explains ethical ideas, theories and concepts in simple to understand terms and focuses on day-to-day nursing situations that apply principles to practice. The book challenges the reader to consider their own values and where ethics fits into who they are and how they behave and carefully unlocks this fascinating and important subject. 

Key features

  • A practical guide that explores how ethics applies to nursing and where the key theories fit in
  • Each chapter contains real world case studies and scenarios with an emphasis on ethical decision making
  • Activities throughout challenge the reader to reflect on their views and experiences and apply what they have learnt to their own practice
  • Each chapter is linked to the latest NMC standards relating to ethical issues.
Introducing ethics
Using reflection to develop inductive ethical understanding
What ethics is and what ethics is not
Theories of ethics
Key areas in healthcare ethics (protecting and promoting autonomy)
Dilemmas at the start and end of life
Your ethical future

Foreword for the 2nd edition:
Nurses make decisions all the time in their work with patients and their families. Some decisions may be relatively straightforward, while others will prove more testing. It is not always easy to know what to do for the best. This book, written clearly and succinctly by Peter Ellis and his team, helps a student nurse build an understanding and a framework, based on ethical principles and concepts, for considering and taking difficult decisions. It is a guide useful not only for the student nurse but also for those who have qualified. This framework is an essential part of nursing today.

As a manager for many years in different health and social care settings, I recognise the importance of nurses becoming aware both of their own values and those of the profession in which they are working. Congruence between these is important. As Peter Ellis rightly points out, if there are major conflicts between what you value as a person and what you value as a nurse, these need to be carefully thought through.  

Values guide the way we behave. It is our behaviours, potentially more than our skills, that make a profound difference to people and their families who are so vulnerable when they use healthcare services. I have often talked to my staff about the fact that ‘how’ we do our work is as important as ‘what’ we do. Careful listening, understanding of and response to individual needs, being honest and respectful – all these make a significant difference to well-being of those who are ill and anxious. It is notable that so much of the positive feedback from patients and their families reflects the importance of behaviour: “even when he was unconscious you showed him such respect in your care”; “thank you for the help you gave us enabling us to come to our own decisions”; “you helped us so much by giving us the understanding of what a dying person’s needs are and, by so doing, allowing us to care for him too”.

Nurses will encounter dilemmas daily in their work – how best to communicate; when to provide care or support independence; how to allocate their time; how to respond most effectively to someone from a different culture. The complexities of disease, of human lives and of the conditions in which nurses work also often make decisions difficult to take. It is possible, too, that other hard judgements may be required, for example the reporting of potential abuse or speaking out about concerns relating to work practices. When taking action, it is important not only for patients but also for themselves that nurses can feel assured that their decisions and actions are justified, by being able to articulate the values that underlie the decision they make. The responsibility of nurses is great and their views, strengthened in this way, can be influential and beneficial.

This book provides the essential ethical, reflective approach that is needed in nursing, offering a framework which helps guide and develop an individual’s own thoughts, and encouraging decision-making that is based on a sound ethical understanding. It strengthens the ability of nurses to develop the values that will underpin their work and enable them to offer ethical services and leadership in the years to come.

Celia Pyke-Lees
Retired Chief Executive; St Michael's Hospice, St. Leonards on Sea

This was a great book which set out really clearly the ethical dilemmas for nursing students

Mrs Claire Carkin
Healthcare, Nursing & Social Work, City College Norwich
November 13, 2018

A very good basic introduction to ethics enabling the students to introduce ethical dimensions in their essay writing helping to enhance their marks.

Ms angela thompson
School of Nursing and Midwifery, Plymouth University
February 21, 2017

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