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COLUMBUS, Miss. – What’s morally correct or what’s legally correct? Individuals are faced with these questions every day on their jobs—particularly nurses, physicians and hospital administrators who deal with issues centered on end-of-life-care.

This fall, Dr. Bryan Hilliard, who teaches philosophy at Mississippi University for Women, will present to nurse leaders and administrators who are a part of the Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation (BMHCC). This effort includes 14 hospitals in three states run by BMHCC.

“The corporation is interested in developing initiatives and strategies to improve nurse practice,” he said. “I’ve been working with nurse leaders and administration at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle for more than five years on all this with some success, and I think this has gotten the attention of system leaders.”

Hilliard added that there is a new, revised American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses that he has been discussing with nurses and others around the state and region.

“Obviously, I’m very excited about this possible expansion of my efforts,” he said.

For about 20 years, Dr. Hilliard has helped clients analyze and solve complex ethical dilemmas. The issues range from informed consent to provision of adequate pain control to end-of-life-care. He has long served as a medical ethics consultant for Baptist Memorial Hospital and other institutions.

Over the past decade, Hilliard has started working more closely with nurses, nurse supervisors and hospital systems in identifying knowledge gaps in communication skills, professionalism, problem-solving skills and the recognition and resolution of ethical dilemmas.

“Much more is expected of nurses and other professionals, especially regarding the development of critical thinking skills. There is also more demand to teach care providers to behave more professionally,” he said.

For example, Hilliard pointed to the place of virtues and character in proper professional development. Hilliard observed, “More and more, I am asked to discuss and assist with the development of such virtues as compassion, kindness, discernment, empathy and integrity.”

He explained that proper training and education can diminish the moral distress so many nurses, physicians, and other professionals suffer in attempting to fulfill their ethical and legal responsibilities.
Hilliard defines ethics as “a critical and careful examination of what’s right and wrong and what’s good and bad.”

He said that much ethics is about character and he believes we are seeing more “sloppiness” and less empathy and a lack of emotional intelligence because people are busy with their technological devices.

Social media is another area of concern in the professional world, particularly for nurses, Hilliard added.

“They need to know how to behave on social media and how to behave with families,” he said. “They need to know about professional boundaries. What are professional boundaries, and how do you know if you have crossed them?”

“In all realms of practice, nurses should strive for excellence, which has tremendous benefit for the community,” according to Hilliard.

Hilliard has participated in the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) project for training nurses in the ethical, legal and policy aspects of palliative and end-of-life-care. “I was very honored to participate in the very first training at BMH-GT here in Columbus this past April and was invited back to participate in the project in September. I think BMH-GT is the first hospital in this area to offer ELNEC training to nurses,” he said.

On Sept. 21, Dr. Hilliard will offer back-to-back presentations to nurses and nurse leaders from all 14 hospitals in the BMHCC system. “This is an excellent opportunity to make a positive difference in the delivery of professional, ethically grounded nursing care,” he noted.

Aug. 4, 2016
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins
(662) 329-7124
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