Nurses and the Virtues of Dealing With Existential Questions in Terminal Palliative Care
Nursing Ethics 2003 July; 10(4): 377-387
We have conducted a small qualitative empirical study into the problems that nurses encounter in delivering existential support in their care of dying patients. We found that nurses are confronted with four types of problem: determining whether the patient actually has put a genuine question for existential support on the agenda; assessing what the import of such a question is; devising an adequate procedure for offering existential support; and organizing adequate support for themselves. Our analysis shows that it takes a 'fine-tuned antenna' from nurses to determine these existential questions, which are often put indirectly and in a variety of forms. We have attempted to show that the subtleties of the communicative dimension of palliative terminal care require an intricate set of virtues on the part of the nurse. We have analysed these virtues in a bottom-up approach, inferring them directly from the material obtained from interviews. The framework utilized is the Aristotelian one of striking the right balance between the poles of a morally relevant dimension.
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