The Relationship of Conscience and Ethical Climate Among Registered Nurses in the Acute Care Environment
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Although there has been extensive research on factors contributing to moral distress, burnout, and turnover intentions in the nursing profession, there has been limited research on the relationship of conscience and ethical climate. Both the ethical climate theory and moral distress theory were utilized to guide the implementation of this study. A predictive correlational design was utilized to determine the relationship between the variables defined as perceptions of conscience, hospital ethical climate and stress of conscience. A purposive, non-probability-based sampling of 193 registered nurses throughout the state of Louisiana was surveyed using a web-based survey instrument. The results of this study
verified a significant relationship exists between perceptions of conscience and hospital climate. An additional relationship was established between hospital ethical climate and stress of conscience. There was no relationship found between nursing demographics and job characteristics, however. The use of conscience serves as an important guide for the nurse’s moral agency. The findings of this study indicate that nurses view conscience as
an asset and authority and perceptions of conscience contribute to the ethical climate of nursing units. Factors indicating a poor ethical climate can lead to a stress of conscience in nurses. Based on the results of this study, a caring, supportive, interdisciplinary teambased environment is important for the nurse to act with moral courage during ethically difficult patient-care situations.
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