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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nurse managers' experience with ethical issues in six government hospitals in Malaysia: A cross-sectional study

Maizura binti Musa12*, Md Harun-Or-Rashid1 and Junichi Sakamoto1

Author Affiliations

1 Young Leaders' Program in Healthcare Administration, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, Nagoya, Japan

2 Medical Practice Division, Ministry of Health, Putrajaya, Malaysia

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BMC Medical Ethics 2011, 12:23  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-12-23

Published: 16 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Nurse managers have the burden of experiencing frequent ethical issues related to both their managerial and nursing care duties, according to previous international studies. However, no such study was published in Malaysia. The purpose of this study was to explore nurse managers' experience with ethical issues in six government hospitals in Malaysia including learning about the way they dealt with the issues.

Methods

A cross-sectional study was conducted in August-September, 2010 involving 417 (69.2%) of total 603 nurse managers in the six Malaysian government hospitals. Data were collected using three-part self-administered questionnaire. Part I was regarding participants' demographics. Part II was about the frequency and areas of management where ethical issues were experienced, and scoring of the importance of 11 pre-identified ethical issues. Part III asked how they dealt with ethical issues in general; ways to deal with the 11 pre-identified ethical issues, and perceived stress level. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, cross-tabulations and Pearson's Chi-square.

Results

A total of 397 (95.2%) participants experienced ethical issues and 47.2% experienced them on weekly to daily basis. Experiencing ethical issues were not associated with areas of practice. Top area of management where ethical issues were encountered was "staff management", but "patient care" related ethical issues were rated as most important. Majority would "discuss with other nurses" in dealing generally with the issues. For pre-identified ethical issues regarding "patient care", "discuss with doctors" was preferred. Only 18.1% referred issues to "ethics committees" and 53.0% to the code of ethics.

Conclusions

Nurse managers, regardless of their areas of practice, frequently experienced ethical issues. For dealing with these, team-approach needs to be emphasized. Proper understanding of the code of ethics is needed to provide basis for reasoning.