Staff profile

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Prof Megan-Jane Johnstone

Position: Chair In Nursing
Faculty or Division: Faculty of Health
Department: School of Nursing and Midwif.
Campus: Melbourne Burwood Campus
Phone: +61 3 92446120 +61 3 92446120
Fax: +61 3 924 46159 +61 3 924 46159


Biography summary

Professor Johnstone is one of Australia’s foremost nursing scholars and an internationally renowned healthcare ethicist. Her scholarly work and research have focused on a range of issues including: patient rights; cross-cultural ethics; patient safety ethics; professional conduct; and end-of-life ethics, with a particular focus on end-of-life decision-making in an aging society. In 1989, Johnstone published Bioethics: a nursing perspective, the first book of its kind to be written from an Australasian perspective. Recently published as a 6th revised edition, this work has the distinction of having been in print for  27 years. Her most recent publication, a three volume major reference work on Nursing Ethics (2015; Sage,UK) has been released worldwide:

Volume I: Developing theoretical foundations for nursing ethics

Volume II: Nursing ethics pedagogy and praxis.

Volume III: Politics and future directions of nursing ethics


  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Waikato, 1985
  • Doctor of Philosophy, La Trobe University, 1993

Career highlights

1.  Publication of book: Bioethics: a nursing perspective (Elsevier Australia)
In 1989, the first edition was published by Bailliere Tindall/WB Saunders, an imprint of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (HBJ). This work was the first of its kind to be written from an Australasian perspective and, on account of its scholastic excellence as well as its practical application of bioethics to nursing, quickly emerged as a leader in its field. Revised editions of the work were published respectively in 1994, 1999, 2004,  2009 and 2016. The book has international distribution rights, is widely cited in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and can be found in the library holdings of several non-English speaking countries in Europe and South Asia. In 2005, the 2004 edition was ranked in the top 50 (38th) of philosophy books sold by  The work also has a substantial presence on Google, Ninemsn, Yahoo, and other general internet search engines.

2. Sage Publications UK: Sage Major Reference Work on Nursing Ethics
This work is the first of its kind in the world and has been organised into three volumes encompassing the following thematic approaches:

Vol.1: Developing theoretical foundations for nursing ethics
Vol.2: Nursing ethics pedagogy and praxis
Vol.3: Politics and future directions of nursing ethics.

This project involved bringing together the foundational articles in the discipline, which I was required to select and introduce by way of a 15,000 word editorial for volume 1 covering the scope of the entire major work, and two 7000 word volume specific introductions for volumes 2 and 3. These major reference works are not readers. They are intended to present a nuanced reading of the key issues/concepts in depth – not just a representative ‘synthetic’ paper, or already much anthologized paper. The emphasis is on comprehensive, scholarly discussion and from – as appropriate – sources that are not always easily accessible (the emphasis is on journals, though key chapters in books were appropriate in some instances). The principal market for this product is libraries in East and South East Asia, Europe and North America. Since many libraries do not have ‘depth’ (specifically) in their journal stock – these multi-volume references obviate the need for Inter-Library loans or buying back issues of journals. Sage Major Works are especially helpful to students as well as to scholars and researchers since they enable learners, scholars and researchers to: explore the topic themselves, initially read a few pertinent articles that allow them to develop their knowledge beyond text book representations of the literature, and deepen their own knowledge of and insights regarding the subject. This, in turn, can assist readers to identify new problems requiring solutions and old problems that can be addressed in new ways.

3. In 2008, invited to write a bi-monthly inaugural ethics column for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal (ANMJ).To date 6 columns per year have been published, each being around 1000 words in length. A wide range of topics have been addressed . In 2014, the ANMJ had an audited circulation of 94,678 and a readership of 120,000.


Fellow, Australia College of Nursing (FACN)

Member, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation

Member, International Centre for Nursing Ethics

Member (Nurse Leader category), Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing

Member, Australian Society of Authors

LinkedIn profile


Teaching Interests

Professor Johnstone's teaching interests are strongly aligned with her research interests and are primarily concerned with furthering understanding and promoting critical thinking on ethical issues in healthcare, patient safety, and cultural diversity in healthcare. She has published, presented and taught widely  on these issues as well as prepared instructional design learning packages for registered nurses, including:

  • Nursing and healthcare ethics
  • Patient safety and clinical risk management

Conferences and seminars

Over 100 invited papers. Last two years only:

• 2015 Johnstone M. Invited keynote address: Nursing ethics futures – challenges in the 21st century for primary health care nurses. Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) Annual National Conference – Brave to Bold, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, 14-16 May (15 May).
• 2015 Johnstone M. Invited concurrent speaker: Primary health care and protecting the wellbeing of vulnerable populations – a matter of social justice. Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) Annual National Conference – Brave to Bold, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, 14-16 May (15 May).
• 2014 Johnstone, M., Hutchinson, A., Redley, B., & Rawson, H. Peer reviewed oral paper: Registered nurse end-of-life decision making concerning ethnic elderly patients admitted to Victorian hospitals. 47th Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG) National Conference “50 not out – aiming for a century”, Adelaide Oval 26-28th November.
• 2014 Jones, A., Johnstone, M-J, & Duke, M. Peer reviewed oral paper: Patient safety and gaps management by registered nurses. ISQua13 – 30th Conference of the International Society for Quality in Health Care, Edinburgh, UK 13-16 October, 2014
• 2014 Johnstone, M. Invited guest speaker: Ethics and Advance Care Planning in a culturally diverse society. Diversicare Professional Development Forum: “Forever Young: Better Health and Wellbeing for older Australians”, 12 June, Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns, QLD.
• 2014 Johnstone, M. Invited guest speaker: Organisational and leadership ethics: responsibility, integrity and trust. QNU Professional Practice and Ethics Annual Conference, Royal International Convention Centre, RNA Show Grounds, Brisbane, 7 March, 2014
• 2013  Johnstone, M. Invited concurrent paper: The caring imperative and moral distress in nurses. International Council of Nurses (ICN) 25th Quadrennial Congress: Equity and Access to Health Care, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, 18-23 May (21 May)
• 2013  Johnstone, M. Invited keynote address: Moral risk, moral luck and moral safety in end-of-life decision-making: the challenge of uncertainty. International Centre for Nursing Ethics (ICNE) 14th Annual Conference: Ethical issues at the end of life: practice and policy imperatives. Carson Conference Centre, ANF House, 540 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, 16-17 (17th) March.
• 2013  Johnstone, M. Invited plenary paper: Climate change and the nursing profession:  a critical response to the perfect moral storm. Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) Inaugural Health and Environmental Sustainability Forum: ‘We’re all in this together’. Carson Conference Centre, ANF House, 540 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, 27 March.
• 2013  Johnstone, M. Invited plenary paper: Organisational and leadership ethics: responsibility, integrity and trust. Australian College of Health Service Managers (ACHSM) Victorian State Conference: Leadership through challenging times. Promenade Hotel and Crown Conference Centre, Melbourne, 15 March



Awards and prizes

2010: Australian College of Nursing (formerly Royal College of Nursing, Australia) Merit Award for Publication - Awarded for evidence of a sustained authorship resulting in publications in refereed journals or books that: address issues of contemporary significance to the profession; provide critical analysis of the issue; challenge the current situation; argues for reform or change.

1998: Recipient of the Inaugural Mona Menzies Post Doctoral Research Award, Nurses Board of Victoria, to conduct post doctoral research into ethical issues associated with the mandatory reporting of child abuse.

1990: Recipient of Annie M. Sage Nursing Memorial Scholarship, Royal College of Nursing, Australia, to support PhD research program

1983: Awarded Prior Society Prize in Philosophy, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand, for third year student demonstrating outstanding ability in the subject of philosophy.


Research projects

Professor Johnstone is involved in a wide range of School, Faculty and University committees:

  • School of Nursing and Midwifery Board
  • School of Nursing and Midwifery Advisory Board
  • School of Nursing and Midwifery Professoriate
  • School Research and Research Training (SRRT) Committee
  • School Academic Progress Committee
  • Faculty Board (Elected member)
  • Deakin University Academic Board

She also serves by invitation as:

  • Member, Governing Council of the International Care Ethics (ICE) Observatory,  University of Surrey, UK
  • Nominated Consultant (Ethics and Human Rights) to the International Council of Nurses, Geneva.
  • Member, Editorial boards of the following professional journals: International Journal of Nursing Ethics; Australasian Emergency Nursing Journal
  • Bi-monthly columnist (Ethics Focus) for the Australian Nursing and MidwiferyJournal.

Professor Johnstone reviews research applications for state and national funding bodies.

Nursing researcher shines light on ethical blind spot

Research interests

Professor Johnstone’s research is primarily concerned with understanding and promoting ethical thinking, decision-making, practice and policy development in healthcare contexts. This research can be broken down into five key interrelated areas:

• Patient rights and vulnerable populations
• Cross-cultural ethics in healthcare
• Patient safety ethics
• Ethical issues at the end of life

Her research and scholarship has informed the development and operationalisation of national and international codes and standards of ethical conduct in nursing and related position statements.

Professor Johnstone is the lead researcher of the recently completed  NBVLL Ella Lowe Grant investigating  ‘Nursing roles and strategies in end-of-life decision making involving older people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds admitted to Victorian hospitals for end-of-life care’. She is also a co-investigator on an ARC Linkage grant investigating the ‘Translation of evidence into pain management practice in acute care environment’ and is engaged as a co-investigator on an international collaborative project titled: ‘Patient participation in acute cancer care: an international pilot study’.

Research page

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