We Won: But Does it Matter How We Won?

We Won: But Does it Matter How We Won?

Michael B. Grossman, DM, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CNML

Referee & Cowboy     This week an important NFL playoff game was impacted by a referee’s mistake. As typically       happens in a situation like this the winning teams fans said, who cares we won, and the losing teams fans questioned the credibility of the sport. The former Commissioner of the NBA, Howard Stern said that he was concerned about controversy in basketball, whether it was real or not as it impacted on the overall integrity of the sport. One of the great questions asked this week was how will this weeks winning team feel if their team loses next week due to a similar referee mistake? Which brings us to the issue of credibility and integrity in all parts of society today. We have a challenge in the work place and as a nation in terms of the morals, norms, and rules we adhere to. Is anything acceptable as long as you win? In the following article we will look at the long-term implications of who cares how we won.

In the End it All Comes Down to Credibility & Integrity

As an ethics professor I have my classes explore the concepts of credibility and integrity through reviewing cases in their workplace and society at large. Deontology is an ethical process for decision-making built on moral rules and unchanging principles. The foundation of deontology is a concern for right and wrong, survival of the species, and social cooperation. From an ethical standpoint, humans should always be treated with respect and integrity and not just a means to achieve something. Human life should always have value. We should always tell the truth, and the foundation of an ethical society is to first do no harm (Morrison, 2011). Some of the contemporary issues in our society, beyond sports speak to these larger ethical issues:

  • Is it acceptable to torture our enemies in the interest of national security?
  • Is it acceptable for our enemies to use children as human shields and bombs in order to win their war?
  • Should the police be above criticism if they are trying to protect themselves from harm?
  • Do people have the right to protest if they feel they have been treated unjustly?
  • Should businesses follow ethical standards or is anything permissible as long is the business makes a profit?

What is the Next Generation Learning From What They See?

The founding fathers of the United States where primarily Mason’s, a secret fraternity grounded in the belief in a higher power and committed to creating a nation based on freedom of speech, equality of people, and separation of church from government, so people of any religion would be free to practice their beliefs. The founding father’s believed that it mattered how we conducted ourselves, and it was important to teach our children ethical principles. Cohen (2008) suggested that what you accept is what you teach the next generation, your employees, and society in general. There have been many challenges and changes to the constitution, but through it all, the resounding theme has been the way we win does matter. In 1864 a group of nations met in Geneva, Switzerland and established a set of humane rules to govern conduct during all future wars. We need rules, laws, and principles to guide our conduct as human beings even in wars, if we truly believe that the way we win matters. There were many questions asked after the stock market crash in 2007? Why weren’t their better laws in place to protect us from this? What are the boundaries of ethical business behavior? How do we protect the average citizen from personal harm?

Ethics in the Workplace

Nursing was again voted the number one profession in terms of ethical standards. Members of Congress came in last at only 7% credibility (Rifkin, 2014). This is a tribute to nursing, and a sad commentary on our government leaders. Yet few people are aware that the third leading cause of death in the United States is preventable medical errors, estimated to be as much as 400,000 patient deaths per year (James, 2013; Institute of Medicine, 2000). Yet even fewer people are aware of nursing’s role in patient errors. The majority of nurses work 12-hour shifts and do not take adequate breaks. Despite numerous studies and recommendations from the American Nurses Association and The Joint Commission to fix this problem, nurses continue to resist addressing the issue of worker fatigue and the resulting patient safety issues (Geiger-Brown, & Trinkoff, 2010). What are the ethical implications of this behavior and how will it affect the credibility of nursing when this information becomes public knowledge like it did with bankers and our government leaders? Most conflicts of interest are around perception of wrongdoing, more so than actual wrongdoing. It is important that we consider our behavior and how it looks to outsiders.

What are we Teaching the Next Generation? 

Today we have massive problems with cheating, bullying, and unfair competition in our schools, organized sports, and on the playground. Parents often ask, where are our children learning these behaviors? Nurses accuse the younger generation of being selfish and not team players. Yet, they are learning it from us and the comments we make when a team wins a game in an unfair way or nurses sacrifice patient safety for their own convenient schedule. Children learn when they see their parents cheat or use influence to get their children into the right school, or playing on the best team. Children learn from what they see on television, in books, and movies when cheaters do get ahead in life and when how we win is less important than winning. It is time for us to honestly and objectively look at our behavior and ask ourselves what we are teaching our children, and the next generation of nurses. How would you answer the question if a patient asked: Am I safe here? What are you doing personally to reduce patient errors?


Cohen, M. H. (2008). What You Accept is What You Teach. Minneapolis, MN: Creative Health Care Management.

Geiger-Brown, J., & Trinkoff, M. (2010). Is it time to pull the plug on 12-hour tours: Part 1. The evidence. Journal of Nursing Administration, 40(3), 100-102.

Institute of Medicine. (2000). To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

James, J. T. (September 2013). A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care Journal of Patient Safety, 9(3), 122-128. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e3182948a69

Morrison, E. E. (2011). Ethics in health administration: A practical approach for decision makers (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Riffkin, R. (2014). Americans Rate Nurses Highest on Honesty, Ethical Standards. from http://www.gallup.com/poll/180260/americans-rate-nurses-highest-honesty-ethical-standards.aspx

Dr. Michael Grossman, DM, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, CNML has over 35 years of nursing leadership experience and is a nursing leader, consultant, academician, and career coach. As a professor in the graduate schools of nursing at both University of Phoenix and Walden University, he specializes in healthcare ethics, leadership development, career coaching, mentoring, teambuilding, motivation, change, communications, and dealing with “difficult” people. He also teaches nursing leadership certification review courses. For further information go to: http://www.nurseleadershipbuilders.com/ He can also be reached at 610-331-8470 or Mike@NurseLeadershipBuilders.com

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