Differences in Ethical Attitudes Between Registered Nurses and Medical Students
Nursing Ethics 2003 March; 10(2): 149-164
In this study we compared the ethical attitudes of a group of experienced, predominantly female, registered nurses (n = 67) with those of a group of final year, mixed sex, medical students (n = 125). The purpose was to determine the basis of differences in attitudes that could lead to ethical disagreements between these two groups when they came to work together. A questionnaire developed to explore ethical attitudes was administered and the responses of the two groups were compared using t-tests. Because of the preponderance of females among the nurses an analysis of variance of the gender-adjusted scores for each group was also carried out. On comparing the responses, the nurses differed significantly from the medical students in a number of ethical domains. A potential source of conflict between these two groups is that the nurses were inclined to adopt the perspective of patients but the medical students identified with their profession. When corrected for the effects of gender, the differences persisted, indicating that it was discipline that determined the differences. We recommend that students of nursing and medicine receive ethics education together, and that more open dialogue between doctors and nurses with respect to their different ethical viewpoints is needed in the work setting. This article will be of interest to educators of students of medicine and nursing, as well as to doctors and nurses who are eager to improve their professional relations and thereby improve patient care.
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