• nursing perspective;
  • advocacy;
  • medico-centrism;
  • multi-disciplinary team;
  • ethics;
  • medical decision-making;
  • qualitative research

As a follow-up to a recent study which highlighted the existence of medical dominance in multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meetings, this paper presents research findings from an Australian study which shows that medico-centrism is a key cause of tension within MDTs. The findings are from a 1-year qualitative study in a regional hospital that explored the ethical decision-making of health professionals within an acute care medical unit. This exploration was conducted through an iterative, phenomenological, qualitative research methodology that consisted of open-ended interviews with a multi-disciplinary representation of health professionals and a sample of consumers for whom they care. The paper situates the notion of nursing advocacy within the context of medico-centrism and examines how the nursing profession interfaces with other disciplines. The findings indicate that the professional framework of nursing includes the language of advocacy, whilst the framework of doctors centres around the medical decision-making process. All professional groups made reference to the MDT as the modus operandi for patient-centred care. All participants noted that time and familiarity with patients and their families is essential for patient-centred care and this could be achieved through MDT collaboration. However, doctors who have scant time to spend with patients saw it as their responsibility to direct the decisions of the MDT and viewed the MDT as adding confusion to the decision-making process. Nurses reported that the limited amount of time spent by doctors in patient consultation translated into the need for advocacy. Professional and clinical confidence and experience are noted as necessary to successfully engage in the process of advocacy. The findings of this article indicate that the adoption of an advocacy role by nurses represents an important means through which MDT operation can be enhanced, medico-centrism limited and patient-centred care improved.