Everyday ethical challenges of nurse-physician collaboration

Motshedisi Sabone, Pelonomi Mazonde, Francesca Cainelli, Maseba Maitshoko, Renatha Joseph, Judith Shayo, Baraka Morris, Marjorie Muecke, Barbra Mann Wall, Linda Hoke, Lilian Peng, Kim Mooney-Doyle, Connie M. Ulrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Collaboration between physicians and nurses is key to improving patient care. We know very little about collaboration and interdisciplinary practice in African healthcare settings. Research question/aim: The purpose of this study was to explore the ethical challenges of interdisciplinary collaboration in clinical practice and education in Botswana Participants and research context: This qualitative descriptive study was conducted with 39 participants (20 physicians and 19 nurses) who participated in semi-structured interviews at public hospitals purposely selected to represent the three levels of hospitals in Botswana (referral, district, and primary). Ethical considerations: Following Institutional Review Board Approval at the University of Pennsylvania and the Ministry of Health in Botswana, participants’ written informed consent was obtained. Findings: Respondents’ ages ranged from 23 to 60 years, and their duration of work experience ranged from 0.5 to 32 years. Major qualitative themes that emerged from the data centered on the nature of the work environment, values regarding nurse–doctor collaboration, the nature of such collaboration, resources available for supporting collaboration and the smooth flow of work, and participants’ views about how their work experiences could be improved. Discussion: Participants expressed concerns that their work environment compromised their ability to provide high-quality and safe care to their patients. The physician staffing structure was described as consisting of a few specialists at the top, a vacuum in the middle that should be occupied by senior doctors, and junior doctors at the bottom—and not a sufficient number of nursing staff. Conclusion: Collaboration between physicians and nurses is critical to optimizing patients’ health outcomes. This is true not only in the United States but also in developing countries, such as Botswana, where health care professionals reported that their ethical challenges arose from resource shortages, differing professional attitudes, and a stressful work environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-220
Number of pages15
JournalNursing Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Africa
  • Botswana
  • clinical practice
  • ethical challenges
  • global health
  • physician–nurse collaboration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects

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