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The moral metaphors of nursing


  • Mary Ellen Wurzbach RN MSN PhD

    1. Professor, College of Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 2860 Pine Ridge Road, Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54904–8480, USA
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The moral metaphors of nursing

The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one thing in terms of another. Metaphorical concepts structure and reflect what we perceive, how we act, and how we relate to other people. In nursing ethics, several metaphors have emerged which have had a great impact on nursing practice. These metaphors include the military metaphor which exemplified nursing during the 1800s, the advocacy and academic metaphors which became a philosophical basis for nursing during the 1960s, and the individualist and community as caring metaphors which have emerged more recently. Although beneficial in some ways, these metaphors may be obscuring the complex moral reality of nursing practice. This article defines a moral metaphor, critiques nursing’s moral metaphors, and provides an historical overview of their development with examples of how they have and do affect nursing practice.