Compassion motivates concern
for ethical issues
By Katherine Thompson Jackson
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
dilemma not only complicated my advocacy for my patient, but it
catapulted me into the ethics arena, said Hamric.
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.
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.
earned her nursing degree in 1970 from Vanderbilt University.
Three years later, she was awarded a masters 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
Why are you interested in ethical nursing?
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.
Ive heard you talk about nursing moral reasoning. What does
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.
Why are you concerned about moral distress among nurses?
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 patients 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 youve been hospitalized,
you understand this.
What do you enjoy doing away from the office?
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.
What books are you reading?
I am reading Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation,
by Joseph Ellis, and The Beach House, by Mary Alice Monroe.