A narrative exploration of the relationship between reading literature and poetry and ethical practice: narratives of student nurses and nurse educators.
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The emerging dialogue between the arts and humanities and professional health care education is explored by considering ethical practice in nursing via several narratives of student nurses and nurse educators in one Scottish university. Adopting a narrative methodology based upon the literary hermeneutic of Paul Ricoeur, this thesis is presented as a ‘narrative research text’ in which my own role as a narrative researcher is critically developed. Utilising two different narrative frameworks, narratives are ‘constructed’ from data drawn from the research methods of focus groups, one-to-one interviews, reflective practice journals and documentary sources. Contemporary approaches in professional health care ethics education tend to share features of deduction, universality and generalisability. Their merits notwithstanding, perspectives drawn from the arts and humanities can offer valid critiques and alternative perspectives. Reading literature and poetry is offered as an engaged and interpretive contribution to a teleological ethic characterised by attention to ends (e.g. human flourishing), cultivation of virtue, telling of narrative, recognising relationality and in acknowledging the significance of contextual factors. These perspectives can all contribute to an ‘eclectic’ approach to ethics education in nursing. These narratives of student nurses support the careful inclusion of the arts and humanities within nurse education curricula for their potential to encourage self-awareness, critical thinking and concern for others. Narratives of nurse educators support these insights in addition to demonstrating ways in which the arts and humanities themselves can offer critical perspectives on current curriculum philosophies. These narratives suggest that the reading of literature and poetry can contribute to an eclectic approach to ‘ethical competency’ in nurse education. This is a broad-based educational approach which draws upon shared interpretive dimensions of the arts and humanities via engagement, action and response. This thesis contributes to current literature in the field of professional health care education by demonstrating the significance of findings derived from inclusion of a teleological ethic within ethics education.