Moral Courage in Healthcare: Acting Ethically Even in the Presence of Risk

John S. Murray, PhD, RN, CPNP, CS, FAAN



Healthcare professionals often face complex ethical dilemmas in the workplace. Some professionals confront the ethical issues directly while others turn away. Moral courage helps individuals to address ethical issues and take action when doing the right thing is not easy. In this article the author defines moral courage, describes ongoing discussions related to moral courage, explains how to recognize moral courage, and offers strategies for developing and demonstrating moral courage when faced with ethical challenges.

Purpose/Goal: The purpose of this independent study module developed for all settings in which nurses practice, learn, teach, research and lead is to define moral courage, consider ongoing discussions related to moral courage, explain how to recognize moral courage, and offer strategies for developing and demonstrating moral courage when faced with ethical challenges.


1. Recognize the characteristics of moral courage.
2. Distinguish contemporary discussions related to moral courage.
3. Identify steps to recognize moral courage.
4. Discuss strategies for developing moral courage.
5. List inhibitors of moral courage.


At the time this article was written, Dr. John S. Murray was the Director of Education, Training & Research, Joint Task Force National Capital Region Medical, Bethesda, MD. Dr. John S. Murray currently serves as the Director of Nursing Research, Surgical Programs and Emergency Department, Children’s Hospital Boston. Prior to January 2011, he served in the United States Air Force for 28 years in various clinical leadership positions in pediatrics including critical care, chronic care, primary care and clinical research. Dr. Murray has also served twice as the Consultant to the Surgeon General for Pediatrics and most recently served as the Consultant for Research. He currently serves as the Research Consultant to the International Council of Nurses. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Northeastern University (Boston); a master’s degree in pediatric acute and chronic care nursing from Boston College; a post-master’s degree in pediatric primary care from the University of Texas Medical Branch; and a PhD in Nursing from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Murray is also a member of the American Nurses Association Ethics and Human Rights Advisory Board and President of the Federal Nurses Association. In these roles he has authored resolutions for ANA and peer-reviewed articles for professional journals addressing workplace abuse and harassment of nurses. He is now working on legislation to protect nurses who report workplace abuse and harassment. In 2008, Dr. Murray was a nominee for The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, the nation's most prestigious honor awarded to individuals whose actions best demonstrate the qualities of politically and morally courageous leadership, for his efforts related to workplace ethics.

The planners and author of this continuing nursing education activity have disclosed no relevant financial relationships with any commercial companies pertaining to this CNE.

Contact Hours: 1.58

Expiration Date: 12/31/2014


Member Price: $0.00
Non-Member Price: $20.00

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