• 1809 Ashland Avenue
  • Deering Hall
  • Baltimore, MD 21205

Cynda Hylton Rushton

Anne and George L. Bunting Professor of Clinical Ethics; Professor of Nursing and Pediatrics

Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN,  is a professor of nursing, with a joint appointment in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics. She currently serves on the Board of Directors and Co-Chair of the Professional Education Committee of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care (C-TAC). Dr. Rushton is a founding member and core faculty of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and co-chair of the Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Ethics Consultation Service. She also served as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Ethics (1993 – 2013) and Program Director of the Harriet Lane Compassionate Care Program at The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center (1999 – 2013).

Dr. Rushton received her master’s of science in nursing, with specialization as a pediatric clinical nurse specialist, from the Medical University of South Carolina. She completed her undergraduate degree in nursing at the University of Kentucky and received a doctorate in nursing at the Catholic University of America, with a concentration in bioethics. Dr. Rushton is the recipient of two post-doctoral fellowships: a Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Executive Fellowship (2006-2009) and a Kornfeld Fellowship in end-of-life, ethics and palliative care (2000).

She is a international leader in nursing ethics; her seminal work on nurse suffering and moral distress was selected for inclusion in the U.S. Nursing Ethics History project with 25 leading nurse ethicists. A book chronicling the evolution of nursing ethics in the United States was published by the American Nurses Association in 2008. She has provided leadership in numerous nursing and interdisciplinary organizations including the Board of Directors of the American Society of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, where she was chair and member of the ethics work group. She also served on the first task force on standards for bioethics consultation. As a member of the American Nurses Association, she served as a member of the ANA task force on the nurse’s role in end-of-life decisions and the development of the profession’s position statements on key end-of-life issues.

Dr. Rushton is an internationally recognized expert in ethics and palliative and end-of-life care. She was appointed by Maryland’s governor as the first chair of a State Council on Quality Care at the End-of-Life and served from 2002-2008. Her contributions were recognized by her selection as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women in 2008 and 2014, and as one of the American Academy of Nursing’s Edge Runners. In 2014 she was honored with the Milestone Award for Bioethics Leadership from the Centre for Health Care Ethics at Lakehead University. In 2001, she received the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Pioneering Spirit Award for her work in advancing palliative care across the life-span.

Dr. Rushton has provided leadership to a variety of national projects focusing on palliative and end-of-life care, including the National Nursing Academy on Palliative and End-of-Life Care Open Society Institute (PDIA), an innovative, experiential interdisciplinary communication training model (HRSA), the Initiative for Pediatric Palliative Care (IPPC) a research, education and quality improvement project and the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC). Dr. Rushton served as a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Increasing Organ Donation and as a consultant to the IOM’s project “When Children Die.” 

Dr. Rushton’s scholarship in clinical ethics focuses on moral distress and suffering of clinicians, the ethical issues in family-centered care, pediatric palliative care, advance-care planning for children, and conceptual foundations of integrity, respect, trust and compassion. Dr. Rushton is recognized for her work in developing interdisciplinary educational curricula and models of care. She also has extensive experience in creating clinician-family partnerships, whereby families whose children have faced life-threatening illnesses partner with researchers and/or clinicians to improve systems of care, design research and educational initiatives, and improve quality and family satisfaction. She led (with Dr. Gail Geller) an international collaboration to improve the lives of children affected by life-threatening neuromuscular diseases and a related project, focusing on the ethical issues faced by neuromuscular clinicians. As part of her RWJ Fellowship, she also tested an intervention to reduce moral distress and burnout by cultivating resilience in nurses working in critical care, oncology and neonatal/pediatrics. In 2009, she and Dr. Geller received a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to extend their work in improving the lives of children with neuromuscular disorders and sickle cell disease by integrating palliative care principles into practice, using an innovative educational intervention. They developed 13 documentary award winning films based on interviews with patients,families and clinicians and an inter-professional curricula for widespread dissemination.



PhD, Catholic University of America
MSN, Medical University of South Carolina
BSN, University of Kentucky


Recent Publications:

Rushton C, Kaszniak AW, Halifax J. Addressing moral distress: Application of a framework to palliative care practice. J Palliat Med. 2013 16(9), 1080-8.
Rushton C, Kaszniak AW, Halifax J. A Framework for Understanding Moral Distress among Palliative Care Clinicians. J Palliat Med. 2013 16(9), 1074-9.
Boss RD, Holmes KW, Althaus J, Rushton CH, McNee H, McNee T. Trisomy 18 and complex congenital heart disease: seeking the threshold benefit. Pediatrics. 2013 Jul;132(1):161-5. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3643. Epub 2013 Jun 3.
Rushton CH. Principled moral outrage: an antidote to moral distress? AACN Adv Crit Care. 2013 Jan-Mar;24(1):82-9. doi: 10.1097/NCI.0b013e31827b7746. 
Geller G, Harrison KL, Rushton CH. Ethical challenges in the care of children and families affected by life-limiting neuromuscular diseases. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2012 Sep;33(7):548-61.
Rushton CH, Erby LH, Cohn RD, & Geller G. Integrating palliative care in life-limiting pediatric neuromuscular conditions: The case of SMA-type 1 and duchene muscular dystrophy. Journal of Palliative Care & Medicine. 2012. 2, 103. doi:10.4172/ 2165-7386.1000103
Rushton CH, Kaylor BD, Christopher M. Twenty years since Cruzan and the Patient Self-Determination Act: opportunities for improving care at the end of life in critical care settings. AACN Adv Crit Care. 2012 Jan-Mar;23(1):99-106. doi: 10.1097/NCI.0b013e31823ebe2e. 
Rushton CH, Schwartz J. A legislatively mandated council: a model for palliative care policy integration. J Palliat Med. 2011 Nov;14(11):1240-5. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2011.0003. Epub 2011 Oct 11.
Dossey B, Beck D, Rushton C. Integral nursing and the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health: Florence Nightingale’s integral legacy for the 21st century. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice. 2011. 6(4), 71-92.