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What Makes a Good Nurse

Why the Virtues are Important for Nurses
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In recent years, the human values at the heart of the nursing profession seem to have become side-lined by an increased focus on managerialist approaches to health care provision. Nursing's values are in danger of becoming marginalised further precisely because that which nursing does best - providing care and helping individuals through the human trauma of illness - is difficult to measure, and therefore plays little, if any, part in official accounts of outcome measures.

Derek Sellman sets out the case for re-establishing the primacy of the virtues that underpin the practice of nursing in order to address the question: what makes a good nurse? He provides those in the caring professions with both a rationale and a practical understanding of the importance that particular character traits, including justice, courage, honesty, trustworthiness and open-mindedness, play in the practice of nursing, and explains why and how nurses should strive to cultivate these virtues, as well as the implications of this for practice.

This original and thought-provoking book will be essential reading for nurses and nursing students, care workers, care commissioners, and many others who work in the caring professions.
  • Published: Apr 15 2011
  • Pages: 224
  • 229 x 164mm
  • ISBN: 9781843109327
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Press Reviews

  • Nurse Education Today

    As a nurse educator, I approached Sellman's work from my perspective of working with undergraduate students at the beginning of their nursing program - a critical point for teachers to consider what Sellman asks of us - What makes a good nurse? And why are the virtues important for nurses? As a teacher, not only was I looking for a comprehensive philosophical analysis of the virtues themselves, but also some thoughtful suggestions for how to approach the learning of, and teaching for virtue development, and how to help students value virtues as critically important attributes for nurses. In this, Sellman did not disappoint as I found myself immersed in philosophical complexity, compelling arguments, and renewed conviction about the importance of virtues for nurses and the educational endeavor as the appropriate space in which to locate them.
  • Nursing Philosophy

    This is a stimulating, engaging text covering a wide terrain... I recommend that this book as a stimulating text for undergraduates, postgraduates and their lecturers; where the purpose will be to initiate discussion on distinctions between the ideal and the real. In this respect the book has value, as a catalyst, where these important matters will benefit from further debate.
  • Medicine, Health Care & Philosophy

    This book is published at a time in which it seems that virtue ethics is having a revival in applied medical ethics, and this also accounts for nursing ethics. The picture of what makes a good nurse as drawn by Derek Sellman should be debated, to see what nurses should or need not aim for. Especially nursing students will be interested in discussing virtues ethics and how to cope with difficult circumstances in order to realize the virtues into practice.
  • Nursing Standards

    He presents persuasive arguments and I commend him for drawing attention to the importance of these virtues in nursing. He presents values that all nurses should consider for their own practice and for the education of future generations.
  • Prof. Sally Thorne, University of British Columbia School of Nursing, Vancouver, Canada

    The theoretical domain within which nursing seeks to fulfil its social mandate demands not only shared ideals but also systems and structures to enact them. Sellman has jumped headfirst into this treacherous intellectual and ethical minefield, and offered us an enticing new direction.
  • Prof. Sally Thorne, University of British Columbia School of Nursing, Vancouver, Canada

    Taking up the conundrum of what constitutes the "good nurse", Derek Sellman invites us into a lively and intelligent dialogue between science, morality, and applied practice. He guides us underneath our taken-for-granted understandings of such notions as courage, trustworthiness and open mindedness so that we encounter these professional virtues not as fossilized attributes to be known or possessed, but rather as intricately complex, delicately situated, and constantly evolving expressions of human practices within the conditions that shape them. Teasing apart the ideals these virtues represent, he challenges our usual approaches to thinking about the nature of nursing, encouraging us to reframe the manner in which we educate those who seek to learn the mysteries of its practice.
  • Prof. Diana Lee, Chair Professor of Nursing and Director, The Nethersole School of Nursing, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

    This is perhaps the most thorough and outstanding coverage of the philosophical basis for nursing practice and nursing education that exists to date. What is nursing? What sort of people nurses should be? Derek makes this difficult but important area of nursing inquiry much, much easier. Powerful and elegant from start to finish, this book should be on the desk of every nurse.
  • Dr. Martin Woods, Senior Lecturer, School of Health and Social Services, Massey University, New Zealand

    Derek Sellman's text is both a timely and highly absorbing journey deep into the heart of nursing. It reveals a timeless and essential set of key virtues that should be a major part of the moral compass of every nurse. Subsequently, it should be read by all nurses - and most certainly by all nurse educators - who are interested in maintaining and promoting the vital moral characteristics of nursing now and in the future.
  • Dr. Helen Kohlen, Sociologist, Junior Professor of Care Policy and Ethics, Faculty of Nursing, University of Vallendar, Germany

    Nursing, according to Derek Sellman, is a MacIntyrian practice which can only flourish when it is not prevented from pursuing the completion of independent ideas. In What Makes a Good Nurse, being vulnerable, trustworthy and open-minded are central virtues studied critically to offer future perspectives. Situated in the realities of the nursing profession today, Sellman draws back on his rich experiences as a teacher of nursing and his deep reflections as a philosopher. This is what makes the book so authentic and easy to stroll through the realms of philosophy. Readers will certainly feel encouraged to engage in a fruitful conversation on moral understandings of contemporary professional nursing.
  • The Sign

    This is a very careful ethical discussion that will not be for every reader, but is a valuable contribution to the current crisis of confidence, both in the NHS and society, about how we define the common good and moral responsibilities and wisdom.