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The need for accurate perception and informed judgement in determining the appropriate use of the nursing resource: hearing the patient's voice

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From the perspectives of both an espoused core underlying value of nursing, and of public policy, the patient's voice should be central to our understanding of patient/client need, appropriate care and intervention. However, accessing and hearing the patient's voice is fraught with difficulty. Edwards (2001) reminds us that our raison d’ĂȘtre as nurses is human vulnerability; a vulnerability sometimes brought into sharp focus because of illness or disease. However, when people are at their most vulnerable, they are often least able to identify, or indeed to express, their need – beyond the completely obvious. This paper provides a short descriptive record of one patient's experience of nursing care. This description is placed within the context of moral arguments about the nature of nursing and the impact this may have on decision-making regarding the appropriate distribution of nursing time. One of our most acute deficits in knowledge, regarding nursing in the UK and Ireland, is a lack of knowledge of the day-to-day activities judgements, decisions and interventions of staff nurses at the sharp edge of patient care delivery. We also have little understanding of how, or indeed whether, staff nurses identify or articulate these activities, judgements, decisions and interventions as having a moral dimension that is rooted in respect for the needs and perceptions of the individual patient. Recent empirical work suggests that a substantial proportion of nursing time is spent in prioritizing and delegating care. We have little idea of the impact of prioritization and delegation on the quality of patient care, as perceived by the recipients of that care, our patients. It is urgent that these deficits in our knowledge and understanding are addressed. This is the case both from the perspective of providing high standards of patient care and from the point of view of linking perceptions of the moral dimension of nursing practice, organizational structure, manpower planning, nursing decisions and interventions, to patient outcomes.
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Keywords: decision-making; judgement; moral dimension of practice; the nursing resource; the patient's voice

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Professor, Department of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Stirling, Scotland, UK, and

Publication date: 2003-10-01

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