Acute care nurses’ experiences of moral certainty

Authors


Abstract

Acute care nurses’ experiences of moral certainty

Moral certainty is a common, vivid experience for many nurses, but it may be a mixed blessing. From one perspective moral certainty provides comfort for the ethical decision-maker and may prompt necessary action which would have been impossible without it. From another perspective, moral certainty stifles dialogue and in-depth discussion of moral issues. Despite the fact that moral certainty is ubiquitous in health care, few research studies have explored both the positive and negative aspects of this complex and sometimes troubling concept. A qualitative design was used to describe the experiences of 20 acute care nurses with moral certainty. They were interviewed and the interviews analysed using Colaizzi’s method for qualitative data analysis. These nurses’ primary responses to moral certainty were ‘speaking up’, ‘standing up’ and ‘refusing to participate’. Their experiences with moral certainty, responses to it, reasons for responding as they did, and clinical prompts are described. The author concluded that moral certainty may have positive and negative aspects. Making an effort to hear alternative views is suggested.

Ancillary