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Keywords:

  • concept analysis;
  • concept meta-synthesis;
  • ethical sensitivity;
  • healthcare professionals;
  • nurses;
  • partially mature concepts;
  • pragmatic utility

Abstract

Title.  Ethical sensitivity in professional practice: concept analysis

Aim.  This paper is a report of a concept analysis of ethical sensitivity.

Background.  Ethical sensitivity enables nurses and other professionals to respond morally to the suffering and vulnerability of those receiving professional care and services. Because of its significance to nursing and other professional practices, ethical sensitivity deserves more focused analysis.

Data sources.  A criteria-based method oriented toward pragmatic utility guided the analysis of 200 papers and books from the fields of nursing, medicine, psychology, dentistry, clinical ethics, theology, education, law, accounting or business, journalism, philosophy, political and social sciences and women’s studies. This literature spanned 1970 to 2006 and was sorted by discipline and concept dimensions and examined for concept structure and use across various contexts. The analysis was completed in September 2007.

Findings.  Ethical sensitivity in professional practice develops in contexts of uncertainty, client suffering and vulnerability, and through relationships characterized by receptivity, responsiveness and courage on the part of professionals. Essential attributes of ethical sensitivity are identified as moral perception, affectivity and dividing loyalties. Outcomes include integrity preserving decision-making, comfort and well-being, learning and professional transcendence. Our findings promote ethical sensitivity as a type of practical wisdom that pursues client comfort and professional satisfaction with care delivery.

Conclusion.  The analysis and resulting model offers an inclusive view of ethical sensitivity that addresses some of the limitations with prior conceptualizations.