Critical care nursing by definition focuses on human responses to life-threatening problems. An increasing number of ethical dilemmas confronts the critical care nurse. A traditional principled orientation to ethical reasoning requires detachment that does not acknowledge the special nature of the nurse-patient relationship and, by itself, does not give satisfactory direction in resolving ethical dilemmas. An ethic of care that acknowledges the special relationship and connection of one human being with another may provide the necessary guidance to assist the nurse in resolving these dilemmas. Critical care nursing practice based on an ethic of care acknowledges and legitimizes care for patients as well as oneself.

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