Equality as a central concept of nursing ethics: A systematic literature review
Equality is a central concept in the Western way of thinking and in health care. In ethics research within nursing science, equality is a key concept but the meaning of its contents is more or less presumptive.
The purpose of this study was to define the concept of equality as a value of nursing ethics research.
Data were collected through systematic literature review and analysed using deductive and inductive content analysis.
Equality has been studied as a concept and in relation to ethical theories. In nursing ethics, research on equality on theoretical and functional level is presented. These levels consist of dimensions, i.e. themes, that equality is related to. The dimensions of the theoretical level are the equality of being, i.e. universal human value, and distributive equality, i.e. equal opportunities, circumstances and results. The dimensions of functional equality included themes such as critique of distributive equality, context, difference, power and care. Critique is aimed at incompatibility of theoretical level with practice. Context raises questions of each nursing situation in relation to equality. Variation within context is closely related to differences involving parties to nursing, and it is a starting point to questions of equality. Power is understood as comprising knowledge, skills and authority that create differences and questions of equality between nurses and patients and nurses and other professionals or students. Nursing as care always includes relationship between two or more persons and needs to be inspected from the point of view of equality.
The concept of equality has been complex to achieve in practice. The dimensions of the levels of equality defined in this study provide an opportunity to reach a better understanding of equality in nursing ethics. There is still a great demand for more research on the concept of equality.