Perspectives on the role of the nurse ethicist

Jenny Jones, Paul Ford*, Giles M Birchley, Settimio Monteverde

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorial (Academic Journal)


This paper offers four contrasting perspectives on the role of the nurse ethicist from authors based in
different areas of world, with different professional backgrounds and at different career stages. Each author
raises questions about how to understand the role of the nurse ethicist. The first author reflects upon their
career, the scope and purpose of their work, ultimately arguing that the distinction between ‘nurse ethicist’
and ‘clinical ethicist’ is largely irrelevant. The second author describes the impact and value that a nurse in an
ethics role plays, highlighting the ‘tacit knowledge’ and ‘lived experience’ they bring to clinical ethics
consultation. However, the second author also warns that the ‘nurse ethicist’ must be cautious in their
approach to avoid being viewed as a resource only for nurses. The third author questions the introduction of
additional professional distinctions such as ‘nurse ethicist’ on the basis that distinctions threaten the creation
of egalitarian healthcare systems, while also acknowledging that clinical ethicists ought not strive for objective
attachment in their work. In direct contrast, the final author suggests that the nurse ethicist can play a pivotal
role in highlighting and addressing ethical challenges that are specific to nurses. These four short pieces raise
questions and point to concepts that will be expanded upon and debated throughout this special issue of
Nursing Ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652
Number of pages658
JournalNursing Ethics
Issue number5
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Nov 2023


  • Clinical ethics consultation services


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