Methods: The research question driving this study is: What occurs when faculty experience ethical tension in nursing education?
University Institutional Review Board approval for ethical treatment of subjects was obtained. Grounded Theory (Glaser, 1998) an inductive process of discovery is the methodological approach used to meet the purpose of this study. A combination of purposive and theoretical sampling was used to identify potential participants. This resulted in a sample size of 11 full time faculty members (n=9) females (n=2) males self-identified as teaching didactic courses in NLNAC or CCNE accredited nursing programs in the mid Atlantic area of the U.S. and who experienced interactions with a student or colleague that resulted in ethical tension. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews lasting 60-90 minutes. Interviews and memos were analyzed and coded concurrently. Data collection continued until theoretical saturation was achieved.
Results: Themes and categories emerging from the data resulted in the discovery of the basic social psychological process (BSPP). This process occurs when nursing faculty encounter and act to resolve ethical dilemmas in academia. The core concepts of the BSPP include noticing ethical dilemmas, responding to the situation, experiencing the impact, and reflecting on outcomes. The resulting substantive theory explains how faculty experience and respond to ethical tension in academia.
Conclusion: Nurse educators are considered the gatekeepers for the nursing profession, therefore there are significant implications to investigating ethical tension-related impacts and responses when working with undergraduate/graduate students or colleagues; these issues warrant consideration especially for maintaining loyal and dedicated faculty as well as when recruiting new members into the rank of faculty.
Identifying methods of coping with and managing ethical tension may contribute to change factors that have a direct impact on modifying nurse academicians’ intent to leave, making for a better work environment and enhancing the numbers of faculty members for teaching the increasing numbers of nursing students.
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