The respectful nurse

Gallagher, Ann (2007) The respectful nurse. Nursing Ethics, 14(3), pp. 360-371. ISSN (print) 0969-7330


Respect is much referred to in professional codes, in health policy documents and in everyday conversation. What respect means and what it requires in everyday contemporary nursing practice is less than clear. Prescriptions in professional codes are insufficient, given the complexity and ambiguity of everyday nursing practice. This article explores the meaning and requirements of respect in relation to nursing practice. Fundamentally, respect is concerned with value: where ethical value or worth is present, respect is indicated. Raz has argued that the two ways of encountering value are to respect and to engage with it. The former requires acknowledgement and preservation. Respect in nursing practice necessarily requires also engagement. Respect is an active value and can be conceptualized within the context of virtue ethics as a hybrid virtue having both intellectual and ethical components. Examples from the literature are provided to illustrate situations where the respectful nurse requires these components or capabilities.

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