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Vulnerable Heroes: Nurses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Title: Vulnerable Heroes: Nurses During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Author: Fernandes, Vanita
Department: Department of Philosophy
Program: Philosophy
Advisor: Goldenberg, Maya
Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated nurses’ hospital working conditions. Early on, nurses were not provided with enough Personal Protective Equipment and throughout the health crisis, nurses did not have access to proper mental health supports and were overworked due to staffing shortages. In this thesis, I argue that these practical challenges and the government’s attempt to mask them with the “healthcare hero” discourse put nurses in a vulnerable position, exposing them to additional moral distress, thus, preventing them from ethically caring for their patients. To analyze and highlight the nurses’ challenges, I combine two theories of justice: the ethics of care and Fineman’s vulnerability theory. Relying on care ethics, which is a normative ethical theory, I emphasize that caring is a necessary moral practice and evaluate the requirements for ethical care by looking at various accounts of care ethics, namely those of Carol Gilligan, Joan Tronto and Nel Noddings. I use vulnerability theory as an alternative framework for the development of responsive nursing policies to minimize the effects of moral distress in nurses, increase resilience in them and in the healthcare system by considering nurses as vulnerable legal subjects.
Date: 2022-07
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