How do Respiratory Care Practitioners learn to make decisions about ethical dilemmas
Matson, Charles Robert
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One key aspect to the responsibilities of a Respiratory Care Practitioner (RCP) is to make decisions in ethical dilemmas. RCPs are often placed in situations where ethical dilemmas will arise and morals will be challenged. The purpose of this study is to understand how Respiratory Care Practitioners (RCPs) learn to make decisions when presented with ethical dilemmas in their practice. The study was guided by the following research questions: (1) under what circumstances do RCPs engage in decisions involving ethical dilemmas, (2) what is the learning process for RCPs who engage in ethical decision making, and (3) how do contextual factors influence decision making in ethical dilemmas for RCPs? This qualitative study used interviews to explore ways RCPs learned to make decisions in ethical dilemmas. A purposeful sample was used to determine the fifteen RCPs with at least three years of experience. Criteria were used to reflect the diversity of in the field of Respiratory Care. The categories that emerged from the data included (1) the ethical dilemmas faced by RCPs and where they occurred, (2) the steps and influences in ethical decision making, and (3) the learning processes of the RCP in making decisions in ethical dilemmas. Three conclusions were made from data. The first conclusion suggests that RCPs view life and death situations as a prominent ethical dilemma in their practice. The second conclusion found that RCPs did identify a process for making decisions in ethical dilemmas that had commonalities with the literature. The last conclusion suggested that RCPs learn to make decisions in ethical dilemmas from aspects of informal learning such as colleagues and the RCPs’ experiences in the clinical environment. Implications for practice included structured educational endeavors to strengthen the RCPs ethical decision making process. Recommendations for future research included the extent formal learning played a part in the RCPs decision making process, the extent hospital administrators view the importance of ethics in the healthcare environment, ethical decisions made in places with excellent reputations, the other ethical dilemmas RCPs face in their practice, and the decision making process in ethical dilemmas of RCPs with less than three years’ experience.