An embodied response: ethics and the nurse researcher

Nurs Ethics. 2011 Jan;18(1):112-21. doi: 10.1177/0969733010385531.


The aim of this study is to reflect on situational ethics in qualitative research and on a researcher's embodied response to ethical dilemmas. Four narratives are presented. They are excerpts from field notes taken during an observational study on Norwegian public health nursing practice. The stories capture situational ethical challenges the author experienced during her research. The author's reflections on feelings of uncertainty, discomfort and responsibility, and Levinas' philosophy help to illuminate the ethical challenges faced. The study shows that the researcher always participates, to some degree, and is never merely a spectator making solely rational choices. Ethical challenges in field research cannot always be solved, yet must be acknowledged. Feelings of vulnerability are embodied responses that remind us of the primacy of ethics. More so, it is the primacy of ethics that gives rise to feelings of vulnerability and embodied responses.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Nursing*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Moral Obligations
  • Norway
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations / ethics
  • Nursing Methodology Research / ethics*
  • Nursing Theory
  • Philosophy, Nursing*
  • Public Health Nursing / ethics*
  • Research Design
  • Research Personnel / ethics*
  • Research Subjects / psychology
  • Researcher-Subject Relations / ethics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology