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Nursing students frequently encounter micro-ethical nursing practice problems during their clinical experience. The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experiences of senior-level baccalaureate students faced with making micro-ethical clinical decisions in practice settings. A descriptive qualitative design was used, and five central themes emerged. A dominant finding was the experience of unapplied and forgotten ethics education revealing a mismatch between what faculty perceived was taught and students’ experiences of that education. When faced with micro-ethical decisions, participants trusted and deferred to staff nurse recommendations, even if the advice contradicted best-practice standards. Contextual naivete was brought out of concealment, contributing to the experience of moral disequilibrium (i.e., students felt conflicted about what they learned in school as best practice and what they observed being role modeled in the clinical environment). This study resulted in theory-guided implications for nursing education and recommendations for future study.


Previously published in Journal of Nursing Education

Published in 2014; Volume 53 No. (3): pages 19-25.