In search of salience: phenomenological analysis of moral distress

Authors

  • Duilio F. Manara RN,

    MNS Lecturer/Director, Corresponding author
    1. Undergraduate Studies School of Nursing, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy
    • Correspondence: Duilio Manara, Lecturer and Director, Corso di Laurea in Infermieristica, Via Olgettina, 60 Milano 20132, Italia. Tel.: + 39 2 26434941; fax: + 39 2 26432527; email: manara.duilio@hsr.it

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  • Giulia Villa RN,

    MNS Lecturer
    1. School of Nursing, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy
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  • Dina Moranda RN

    MNS Lecturer
    1. School of Nursing, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy
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Abstract

The nurse's moral competences in the management of situations which present ethical implications are less investigated in literature than other ethical problems related to clinical nursing. Phenomenology affirms that emotional warmth is the first fundamental attitude as well as the premise of any ethical reasoning. Nevertheless, it is not clear how and when this could be confirmed in situations where the effect of emotions on the nurse's decisional process is undiscovered. To explore the processes through which situations of moral distress are determined for the nurses involved in nursing situations, a phenomenological–hermeneutic analysis of a nurse's report of an experience lived by her as a moral distress situation has been conducted. Nursing emerges as a relational doctrine that requires the nurse to have different degrees of personal involvement, the integration between logical–formal thinking and narrative thinking, the perception of the salience of the given situation also through the interpretation and management of one's own emotions, and the capacity to undergo a process of co-construction of shared meanings that the others might consider adequate for the resolution of her problem. Moral action requires the nurse to think constantly about the important things that are happening in a nursing situation. Commitment towards practical situations is directed to training in order to promote the nurse's reflective ability towards finding salience in nursing situations, but it is also directed to the management of nursing assistance and human resources for the initial impact that this reflexive ability has on patients' and their families' lives and on their need to be heard and assisted. The only case analysed does not allow generalizations. Further research is needed to investigate how feelings generated by emotional acceptance influence ethical decision making and moral distress in nursing situations.

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