Is Access to Health Care an Ethical Issue for Nurses?

By Patricia M Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN

Core values for nurses include promoting health, preventing illness and alleviating suffering. Does this also include improving access to health care? I would say yes.

Across the world there is an increasing gap between the rich and poor. Interventions across the globe by governments are focusing on improving access to health care.

Apart from the ethical and issues related to a just and civil society, improving health care just makes good economic and political sense. Promoting social participation and health is a good recipe for a harmonious and just world.

Many nurses feel the pain and anguish of individuals unable to access health services either on the basis of factors such as cost or transportation.  But perhaps most distressing is when health care is perceived as unwelcoming, alienating or discriminating.

As a consequence many nurses engage in advocacy for their patients in a range of settings, from the community to the policy table.

Advocating for patients, their families and communities requires courageous leadership as commonly we as nurses face traditional and powerful forces.  Improving access to care requires challenging entrenched patterns and providers of service delivery.

So what does courageous leadership look like?  Wanting to make things better is a great start as well as questioning entrenched beliefs and working together for a negotiated purpose.

To me it is also about having a voice and providing a rationale and justified argument as to why inclusion and participation in society makes good sense to governments and other key stakeholders.

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor – Aristotle


Patricia M Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN
Dean & Professor
Johns Hopkins University
School of Nursing