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We have a responsibility to build the ethics of nursing inquiry as we build the science of nursing. Nurse researchers are uniquely prepared to review and refine the ethics of their research designs and methods. No one can more adequately explore issues of informed consent and ethical conduct than the investigators who engage in the process and who understand the risks inherent in the methods they employ. Nurses who have long prided themselves on caring relationships with patients and families must assume the primary responsibility for the ethical conduct of those relationships in the research process.
Traditionally, nurse researchers have been content to leave the business of ethical review to institutional review boards (IRBs)--in effect, abdicating responsibility for the ethical conduct of nursing science to an external oversight committee. As evidence of this passivity, consider the lack of nursing literature on ethical issues in research and the limited descriptions of the consent process in most research articles.
Nursing's passive position on ethical inquiry is remarkable because we are not passive people. We are passionate advocates for our clients. We are tireless crusaders for the sanctity of caring relationships. We are known for our vision and for questioning the wisdom of tradition. Clearly, we have questioned the appropriateness of traditional research methods for exploring nursing phenomena. For more than two decades, nurses have turned to disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, and philosophy to appropriate and adapt naturalistic theories and qualitative methods to more adequately address nursing phenomena. We also have identified the need to combine …