Ever since the deeply tragic hate crime involving an active shooter at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018, how nurses respond to patients who are perpetrators of violence is a hot topic. Ari Mahler, the nurse who was assigned to care for that shooter immediately after the event, is Jewish. His eloquent description of how he was still able to provide compassionate, empathetic care “out of love” despite the circumstances became a news and social media sensation.1 It created a platform for nurses to explore their own beliefs, feelings, and personal ethics on blog sites, in discussion groups, and individually.
Many years ago, I recall being part of a trauma resuscitation team for victims of violence related to a home invasion. The suspected shooter was among the critically wounded. As the police officers were piecing together what happened, one surgeon remarked to the officers she passed on the way to the OR, “Don't tell me anything—I don't want to know.”
Later, that surgeon and I had a moment to talk. I asked what went through her mind when she made the statement. She candidly explained that she gave all patients her very best; she believed a murderer would be no exception. However, she wanted to go to the OR unencumbered by any possibility of bias. It was her way of making sure. I respected that.
Allowing personal biases to be a barrier to providing high standards of care delivery is an ethical violation. The first provision of the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics with Interpretive Statements dictates that we “practice with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person.”2 Our ethics constitute the foundation of nursing practice. Living these ethics can be challenging, especially given the cruelty and violence in the world—even in our own workplaces. Human emotions run very strong. We have to acknowledge them, but our commitment to upholding ethical standards must be stronger. Our collective success in doing so is perhaps best reflected by annual Gallup polls in which the public consistently ranks nursing as the most trusted profession.3 There's a reason for that...and Ari Mahler is a true role model for all of us.
LINDA LASKOWSKI-JONES, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, NURSING2019 VICE PRESIDENT: EMERGENCY & TRAUMA SERVICES CHRISTIANA CARE HEALTH SYSTEM, WILMINGTON, DEL.
1. Jewish nurse: I treated mass shooting suspect out of love. Associated Press. November 4, 2018. www.apnews.com/29359f3ffd0a410a962a31abe0ad140f
3. Brenan M. Nurses keep healthy lead as most honest, ethical profession. Gallup. December 26, 2017. https://news.gallup.com/poll/224639/nurses-keep-healthy-lead-honest-ethical-profession.aspx