As a nurse researcher, I would like to pose the question of, in the face of conflict between the roles of researcher and practitioner, which is most likely to take precedence when a nurse makes critical decisions. Before answering, however, we must assess the sense of responsibility inherent in nurse researchers.
Nurse researcher responsibility strikes to the very core of nursing, represented by a nurse's duty to generate knowledge that benefits patients and enhances the illness recovery process. In terms of such responsibilities, "reflective practitioner" and "patient advocate" represent two distinct, often conflicting ethical roles played.
The nurse researcher is a reflective practitioner who must be able to remove him or herself from the nurse-patient relationship to reflect on the caring behavior between the two. Impartiality is essential to examine the intersubjective relationships at work in caring practices. Through reflecting on clinical intersubjectivity, research on caring practice must not only consider the advancement of clinical practice and policy, but also enrich our understanding of a phenomenon while avoiding the impulse to control or intervene. Understanding of a phenomenon is rooted in reflection on personal experience; believing, valuing, willing in the moment of being together. Therefore, an ethical principle of researchers must be willingness to examine their own prior assumptions and actions critically through self-consciousness and self-awareness (Hewitt, 2007).
The nurse researcher is an advocate, i.e., defender, of patient rights. He or she helps patients discuss their needs, interests and choices, and respects their basic humanity (Fry & Johnstone, 2002). This means nurse researchers may elect to emphasize their practitioner role during the course of research (Mauthner, Birch, Jessop, & Miller, 2002). In other words, 'Medical/emergency care has priority over research activities' (Morse, 2007). The role of advocate is not limited to data collection, but incorporates the presentation of research findings as well. Nurse researcher should avoid giving a selective presentation of facts or misrepresenting clinical evidence in terms of research requirements.
The nurse researcher is both a reflective practitioner and advocate by being involved in the clinical practice, reflecting on caring behavior, and conducting both internal and external dialogues over the process of research. Self-regulation of the practitionerresearcher should reflect positively on practice and help he or she make the best choices when conflicts or tensions exists in order to ensure that caring and research, rather than standing in opposition to one another, are treated as conjoint activities (Eide & Kahn, 2008).