Fairbanks Program in Nursing Ethics

What is the Program in Nursing Ethics?

The Fairbanks Program in Nursing Ethics is a novel, collaborative program that focuses on supporting ethical practice of nurses.  The program coordinates service, education, and research efforts to support ethical nursing practice across the clinical and educational realms of Indiana University Health.  This program demonstrates the commitment of Indiana University Health and the Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics to nurses, and it provides a clear vision for the critical role they play in the ethical care of patients.  Under the leadership of Dr. Lucia Wocial, the Fairbanks Program for Nursing Ethics provides staff education, consultation support, and research to improve the capacity of nurses to manage the ethical challenges inherent in the care of patients in a modern, technology-driven health care system.

Two nurses talking about ethics

About Dr. Wocial

Dr. Wocial serves on the ethics consultation service, ensuring the voice of nursing informs considerations about ethical treatment options for patients.  She is available for informal consultations with nurses who seek guidance about everything from every day to crisis ethical challenges.  Informal consultations provide a mechanism for nurses at all levels and in all roles to access expert ethical advice, a willing ear for processing moral distress, and expert input in managing or arbitrating dynamics which lead to moral distress.  

In addition to being a member of the core faculty for FCME and a content expert for several ethics fellowships sessions, Dr. Wocial teaches applied ethics to undergraduate nursing students in the Indiana University School of Nursing.  She meets regularly with nurses in their first six months after joining IU Health as part of the transitions to practice program and provides on-demand ethics education to a variety of audiences on a variety of topics.


Unit Based Ethics Conversations – Exploring Ethically Challenging Situations

Although not exclusively for nurses, the Unit Based Ethics Conversation (UBEC) program exists largely to provide nurses and other clinical care providers a unit-based opportunity to explore ethically challenging situations encountered in clinical practice.  The mission of UBEC is to create an environment with morally open space where reflective dialogue and experiential narratives are encouraged to thrive.  The goal of the program is to increase participants’ abilities and confidence in dealing with ethically challenging situations in real time. Conversations may be case specific or related to recurrent issues which impact the moral life of the staff.  To schedule a UBEC, please contact Dr. Wocial.

Published Articles about the UBEC Program:
  • Facilitated Ethics Conversations: A Novel Program for Managing moral Distress in Bedside Nursing Staff . View Article
  • An Evaluation of Unit-Based Ethics Conversations . View Article

If you are interested in becoming a UBEC Facilitator in your hospital setting click below to learn about training opportunities.

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Two nurses talking to one another.
Two nurses and one doctor talking looking at a computer and talking.


The primary education initiative in the Program for Nursing Ethics is IMPACT.  A program that assists clinicians to develop skills in conducting conversations with patients about values and goals.  This allows the clinicians to identify what matters most to the patient as a means of supporting the team to create a treatment plan that is guided by patient values.  Click below learn about upcoming IMPACT training opportunities.

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Dr. Wocial’s research is focused on identifying and implementing interventions to address moral distress of clinical care providers.  The Moral Distress Thermometer*, developed by Dr. Wocial, is used widely for formal research and quality improvement projects around the world.  The UBEC program is one intervention that has shown promise in mitigating moral distress.

*Please note, since the publication of the moral distress thermometer, research in moral distress has progressed.  There are updates to the instrument, not yet published.  If you are interested in learning more, please contact Dr. Wocial