Graduates should maintain 'ethical fitness'

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By Heather Travis
Monday, June 14, 2010
Renowned nurse ethicist Janet Storch gave a quick lesson in "ethical fitness" to University of Western Ontario graduates entering health-care professions.
 
Just as people are not born with physical fitness, those working in health care must exercise their ethical fitness to strengthen the muscles needed to react to ethical situations.
 
In order to fulfill professional and private roles, we need to be ethically fit, says Storch.
 
“Ethical fitness requires being ethically engaged on a regular basis,” she says, noting this includes reflecting on and practicing ethics daily, engaging in ethical debates and forums, and discussing barriers to ethical practice.
 
Janet Storch
 
Storch spoke to about 650 graduates from the School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies, the faculties Health Sciences (Nursing), Brescia University College and Huron University College at the June 14 afternoon session of Western's 295th Convocation.
 
The University of Western Ontario conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LL.D.) upon Storch in recognition as one of the world’s foremost nursing ethicist.
 
In the past, ethics in health care was traditionally taught as a set of rules – the ‘must-not’ and ‘should-not’ rules governing behaviour. This code of ethics would be used to determine right and wrong actions and rarely took into consideration the grey areas in between.
 
“Fortunately, we have come to know through research and our experiences in health care that everything in health care and in our personal lives is about far more than rule-based codes of ethics. It is not only about ethical dilemmas,” says Storch.
 
“We are all ethical and moral agents when we engage in health and human services.”
 
A professor emeritus and former professor and director of the University of Victoria’s School of Nursing, Storch currently serves as Chair of Health Canada’s Research Ethics Board, and co-chair of the Consultation Group on Clinical Ethics and Co-ordination for the B.C. Ministry of Health Services to develop clinical ethics resources, and continues to work with the Canadian Nurses Association on the Code of Ethics.
 
Her intense work on bioethics for nearly four decades brought ethics into the consciousness of all nurses, not just clinical nurses, as well as professional bodies, health service organizations and governments.
 
She encouraged graduates to resist compromising their ethical values and independent thoughts.
 
“Our world desperately needs people who raise questions and can work with others to find ethical answers to tough situations. In short, the world needs people who are ethically fit,” says Storch.
 
Storch serves on national committees, Health Canada’s Expert Advisory Committee on Blood Regulations, and is engaged with ethics education. She also serves on supervisory committees for graduate students at the University of Victoria.
 
Storch continues an active program of research in health ethics and nursing ethics as well as in professional service. Her co-edited book, Toward a Moral Horizon: Nursing Ethics for Leadership and Practice, is a core text in Canadian nursing curricula.
 
In her citation, Western’s Director of Nursing Mary-Anne Andrusyszyn called Storch a “champion of health promotion, a woman with vision, and someone committed to making a difference to the lives of indigenous people around this world.”
 
“It is fitting that a nurse scholar such as Dr. Janet Storch be honored with this great distinction during the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing’s 90th anniversary year,” says Andrusyszyn. “She has played a key role in the evolution of research ethics in Canada and her work has influenced nursing education and nursing practice in Canada and abroad.”
 
As part of the ceremony, the Brescia University College Award for Excellence in Teaching was presented to Professor Jennifer Sutton.
 
The Huron University College Award for Excellence in Teaching was awarded to Professor James Crimmins. 

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