Original Research - Special Collection: Contemporary Issues in Nursing

Analysis of self-evaluated ethical competence of midwifery students at a selected nursing college in the Free State

Moliehi R. Mpeli
Curationis | Vol 41, No 1 | a1925 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v41i1.1925 | © 2018 Moliehi R. Mpeli | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 February 2018 | Published: 29 August 2018

About the author(s)

Moliehi R. Mpeli, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, South Africa


Background: It is imperative to know whether the students who have undergone a specific training perceive themselves as confident and competent in handling ethical dilemmas, in the face of contemporary ethical challenges. Such evaluation is significant especially for nursing and midwifery students who have undergone training that stipulates adherence to a code of ethics and professional norms. At present, such knowledge is limited, and this has an impact for ethics education.

Objectives: The article aims to describe the self-evaluated ethical competence of midwifery students and to contrast the findings to the content of the ethics instruction received. Based on outcomes, the article aims to convey the claim to nursing institutions that current strategies that rely on teaching nursing ethics without appraising the context of a situation are ineffective in fostering ethical competence amongst students.

Method: This study made use of a set of self-reflection reports in which the midwifery nursing students narrated their experiences in handling ethical issues.

Results: Analysis of the self-reflective reports revealed that one of the three dimensions of ethical competence was limited. There was evidence of moral perception, moral action and substandard moral reasoning. The principles that were mostly referred to within the narratives were autonomy and beneficence.

Conclusion: The findings support the argument that teaching principlism and enforcing a code of ethics without contextualising it coerces the student to conform without questioning their beliefs. Thus, ethical competence amongst the midwifery students may be described in terms of compliance to principles with limited reflection on the situation as a whole.


Self-evaluation; ethical competence; moral dimensions; Principlism and code of ethics


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