Integrity and moral residue: nurses as participants in a moral community

Nurs Philos. 2004 Jul;5(2):127-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-769X.2004.00160.x.


This paper will examine the concepts of integrity and moral residue as they relate to nursing practice in the current health care environment. I will begin with my definition and conception of ethical practice, and, based on that, will go on to argue for the importance of recognizing that nurses often find themselves in the position of compromising their moral integrity in order to maintain their self-survival in the hospital or health care environment. I will argue that moral integrity is necessary to a moral life, and is relational in nature. When integrity is threatened, the result is moral distress, moral residue, and in some cases, abandonment of the profession. The solution will require more than teaching bioethics to nursing students and nurses. It will require changes in the health care environment, organizational culture and the education of nurses, with an emphasis on building a moral community as an environment in which to practise ethically.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Nursing*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Morals*
  • Organizational Culture*