Does fear of retaliation deter requests for ethics consultation?
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Reports suggest that some health care personnel fear retaliation from seeking ethics consultation. We therefore examined the prevalence and determinants of fear of retaliation and determined whether this fear is associated with diminished likelihood of consulting an ethics committee.
We surveyed registered nurses (RNs) and social workers (SWs) in four US states to identify ethical problems they encounter. We developed a retaliation index (1–7 point range) with higher scores indicating a higher perceived likelihood of retaliation. Linear regression analysis was performed to identify socio-demographic and job characteristics associated with fear of retaliation. Logistic regression analysis was performed to determine whether fear of retaliation was associated with less likelihood of seeking consultation. Results Our sample (N = 1215) was primarily female (85%) and Caucasian (83%) with a mean age of 46 years and 17 years of practice. Among the sample, 293 (48.7%) RNs and 309 (51.3%) SWs reported access to an ethics consultation service. Amongst those with access, 2.8% (n = 17) personally experienced retaliation, 9.1% (n = 55) observed colleagues experience retaliation, 30.2% (n = 182) reported no experience with retaliation but considered it a realistic fear, and 50.8% (n = 305) did not perceive retaliation to be a problem. In logistic regression modeling, fear of retaliation was not associated with the likelihood (OR = 0.64; 95% CI = 0.22–1.89) or frequency of requesting ethics consultation (OR = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.27–2.38). Conclusion Fear of retaliation from seeking ethics consultation is common among nurses and social workers, nonetheless this fear is not associated with reduced requests for ethics consultation.
Keywordsclinical ethics ethics consultation nurses organizational ethics retaliation social workers
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