Sept. 27-Oct. 10, 2002
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Bonds will help build on aspirations

Presidential Accolades
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Time form, earnings statement show off new look
To the point with Ann Hamric
Off the Shelf -- recently published books by U.Va. faculty and staff
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Indigenous in black-and-white
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To the point

Ann Hamricwith Ann Hamric

Compassion motivates concern for ethical issues

By Katherine Thompson Jackson

Whether caring for patients or endangered turtles, Ann Hamric expresses compassion in many ways. Early in her nursing career she was moved to examine ethical issues when a patient asked her to assist him in suicide.

“This dilemma not only complicated my advocacy for my patient, but it catapulted me into the ethics arena,” said Hamric.

Now Hamric, an associate professor in the School of Nursing, is studying moral reasoning and moral behavior in nurses, finding that their behavior is often not a function of their moral reasoning.

Recognized as an outstanding teacher in the field, she will be honored in October with the Nursing Alumni Association 2002 Distinguished Professor Award for her contributions in the realm of scholarship, teaching and service.

Hamric earned her nursing degree in 1970 from Vanderbilt University. Three years later, she was awarded a master’s degree in nursing from the University of California at San Francisco and went on to earn a Ph.D. in nursing ethics from the University of Maryland in 1996.

Q. Why are you interested in ethical nursing?

A. When the young C1 quadriplegic with spinal cord injuries similar to those sustained by Christopher Reeve asked me to assist him in suicide, it presented a new challenge. This was prior to the Karen Ann Quinlan case that brought bioethics into the American consciousness. U.Va.’s approach to interdisciplinary bioethics brought me here. I am working on the Health Systems Ethics Committee and the Institute for Practical Ethics. I am fortunate to work collaboratively with institute director and professor of religious studies James Childress and Jonathan Moreno, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics.

Q. I’ve heard you talk about nursing moral reasoning. What does that mean?

A. The notion of nursing moral reasoning is a way of expressing how nurses are thinking about ethical problems. Ethical cases can be difficult for nurses – there is variability in how they approach ethical problems. Thanks to a three-year $554,000 NIH grant, I will study ethical issues that nursing professionals confront. Jonathan Moreno, Paul Lombardo and James Childress will work with me.

Q. Why are you concerned about moral distress among nurses?

A. I think that this kind of stress has had a major impact on the national nursing shortage. It needs to be dealt with. When nurses are conflicted, for example, by a patient’s request, versus doctors’ orders, the nurses experience distress. It is characterized by uneasiness and questioning when a person is unclear about the right course of action. I am also working with Dr. Leslie Blackhall on a project about end-of-life care in the ICUs. Nurses know what to do, but in many cases are unable to do it. Nurses are interesting, important and powerful, and if you’ve been hospitalized, you understand this.

Q. What do you enjoy doing away from the office?

A. I enjoy singing in my church choir at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and recently participated in the Wintergreen Festival Chorus. I am known as the “turtle lady” because of a passion for conserving a species of ancient sea turtles. I enjoy providing a sanctuary for the loggerhead turtles on the beaches of North Carolina.

Q. What books are you reading?

A. I am reading Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, by Joseph Ellis, and The Beach House, by Mary Alice Monroe.


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