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Developing ethical competence in healthcare management

Erica Falkenström (Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)
Jon Ohlsson (Stockholm university, Stockholm, Sweden)
Anna T Höglund (Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 8 February 2016




The purpose of this paper was to explore what kind of ethical competence healthcare managers need in handling conflicts of interest (COI). The aim is also to highlight essential learning processes to develop healthcare managers’ ethical competence.


A qualitative study was performed. Semi-structured interviews with ten Swedish healthcare managers from different care providers were carried out twice and analysed through step-wise categorisation.


Four categories of COI were revealed and two ways (passive and active) in which COI were handled. Ethical guidelines did not help the healthcare managers to handle the COI, and none of the managers made use of any sort of systematic ethical analysis. However, certain ethical competence was of great importance to identify and handle COI, consisting of contextual understanding, rational emotions, some theoretical knowledge and a suitable language. Organising work so that ethical analysis can be carried out is of great importance, and top management needs to clearly express the importance of ethical competence and allocate resources to allow adequate learning processes.


This paper highlights the management level and focuses on how work-integrated learning-processes can enable ethical competence. Ethical competence at the management level is essential both to comply with the constitution and legal requirements regarding healthcare, and so that managers are able to analyse COI and justify their decisions.



The research has been funded by the AFA Insurance. The authors thank the members of the SCORE-seminar and Stefan Svallfors for helpful comments on a previous version.


Falkenström, E., Ohlsson, J. and Höglund, A.T. (2016), "Developing ethical competence in healthcare management", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 17-32.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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