Chapter 1

The Ethic of care: Our moral compass

Kathleen Stephany and Piotr Majkowski


The ethic of care or the moral imperative to act justly is offered as an ethical compass to guide nurses. Nurses are inspired to adopt the ethic of care into their practice and into their everyday lives as a lived virtue. A connection is drawn between the theoretical premises of feminism, humanism, phenomenology and the ethic of care, because they each pay attention to the contextual features of people’s lives. Critics of the ethic of care are respectfully challenged. A convincing argument is made that sensing the needs of others is as important as being able to use universal maxims to deal with moral issues. Something new is proposed that goes beyond what was previously believed to be central to this important subject matter. It is recommended that the practice of the ethic of care be informed by knowledge derived from additional sources. For example, the multi-faceted components of care, sound moral principles and the values and ethical responsibilities as laid out by the Canadian Nursing Association (CNA) Code of Ethics, are all considered as crucial and relevant to ethical decision making. Special attention is paid to the notions of compassion, generosity, unconditional positive regard and presencing and a heartfelt narrative is used to illustrate the lived practice of compassion. The chapter ends with a case study where a student nurse is assigned the challenge of caring for a client diagnosed with a catatonic type of schizophrenia. Critical thinking questions are posed in relation to this real life story.

Total Pages: 3-19 (17)

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