The care of people who are dependent on support due to illness, age or disability, or also due to special psychosocial needs, used to be provided exclusively, and is still provided to a substantial extent, by lay people in the family circle or in close social relationships. Recently, nursing as an independent occupational field has tended to become more and more professionally diversified and academised, including paediatric nursing, special needs care, intensive care, psychiatric nursing, geriatric nursing. It can be assumed that there will be an increasing need for professional, well-trained nursing staff, because the proportion of care provided by lay people is decreasing, while the number of people that need nursing care or assistance is rising due to demographic change. In addition, nursing professions are becoming more demanding, among other things due to their technologisation.
The professional self-concept of nursing staff is reflected e.g. in the nursing definitions formulated by the World Health Organization and the International Council of Nurses. In addition to health-related aspects, ethical topics such as promoting opportunities for participation and self-determination of care-dependent people play a central role in these definitions. Nursing ethics is now an independent sub-discipline within medical ethics.
Nursing ethics deals with ethical questions related to individual persons, such as a respectful and responsible interaction between caregivers and those in need of care, as well as with questions related to organisations and social ethics. For example, when it comes to the important aim of avoiding coercive measures in the care sector to the greatest possible extent, interventions on the institutional level, such as ensuring an appropriate staffing ratio, are possibly more helpful than appealing to individual care workers. Accordingly, it is a fundamental social issue to determine to what extent the shortage of personnel in the care sector may and should be countered by the use of robotics and other technical solutions.