Staff profile - Megan-Jane Johnstone

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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. Currently being prepared as a 6th revised edition, this work has the distinction of having been in print for  25 years. Her most recent book Alzheimer’s disease, media representations and the politics of euthanasia: constructing risk and selling death in an aging society (Ashgate, London; published April 2013) has been released worldwide. 


  • 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 of my book Bioethics: a nursing perspective 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.  Widely prescribed as a key reference for students of nursing (at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels), and widely sighted as a reference in other publications and documents (including nursing codes of ethics and related position statements), the work also quickly emerged as one of HBJ’s (now Elsevier’s) most successful titles in nursing ethics. Revised editions of the work were published respectively in 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2009. It is currently being prepared as a 6th revised edition.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.  ICN commissioned co-authorship of the book: Ethics in nursing practice, 2nd & 3rd editions (Blackwell Science, London), with Sara T. Fry (USA)
The ICN is a federation of national nurses’ associations, representing nurses in more than 129 countries. Founded in 1899, ICN is the world’s first and widest reaching international organisation for health professionals.  Operated by nurses for nurses, ICN works to ensure quality nursing care for all, sound health policies globally, the advancement of nursing knowledge, and the presence worldwide of a respected nursing profession and a competent and satisfied nursing workforce. In 2001 formally commissioned by the ICN to participate as a co-author to lead a revision of its flagship book:  Ethics in nursing practice: a guide to ethical decision making (Blackwell Science, Oxford). This work provides an interpretation of - and guides the application of - the ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses, and addresses issues concerning the increasingly diverse social, cultural, political and religious situations in which nurses practise.   The second edition of the ICN book was published in 2002 and has since been translated into several languages, including Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Serbian. The book has distribution rights in over 134 different countries, making it the most widely distributed work of its kind in the world.  The Third revised edition of this work was published in 2008. 


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
  • Leadership ethics in healthcare

Conferences and seminars

Over 100 invited papers. Last two years only:

  • 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
  • 2012 Johnstone, M. Invited keynote address: Ethics and the rationalisation of end-of-life care in an ageing society. 6th International Congress on Innovations in Nursing 2012: Innovation and Leadership in Clinical Practice, Research and Education, Pan Pacific Perth, 21-23 November.
  • 2012 Johnstone, M. Invited concurrent paper: Cultural diversity, therapeutic communication, and the ethics of ‘truthful disclosure’ in cancer care. 6th International Congress on Innovations in Nursing 2012: Innovation and Leadership in Clinical Practice, Research and Education, Pan Pacific Perth, 21-23 November.
  • 2012 Johnstone, M. Invited plenary paper: Patient participation and the ethics of choice. International College of Emergency Nurses (ICEN) Conference: New Frontiers - Reaching Great Heights. Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, 10-12 October
  • 2012 Johnstone, M. Peer reviewed oral paper: The problem of moral risk, moral luck and moral safety in end-of-life decision-making in dementia care.  International Dementia Care Partnership (Dementia Services Development Center (UK) and Dementia Center, Hammond Care (Australia) International Conference: Risky Business: Facing up to dementia, Darling Harbour, Sydney, 27-29 June.
  • 2012 Johnstone, M. Invited plenary paper: The Ethical dilemmas of nurses and midwives: Professional judgement versus employment directives. QNU Professional Practice and Ethics Conference, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, 9 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)Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS) Executive Committee
  • Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS) General CommitteeCentre for Quality and Patient Safety Research (QPS) External Advisory Committee
  • 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 four key interrelated areas:

• Patient rights
• 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 currently serving as the chief investigator on a 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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