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Reply by Authors Elizabeth Moran Fitzgerald and colleagues to Jason Roy on “Nurses Need Not Be Guilty Bystanders: Caring for Vulnerable Immigrant Populations”

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October 22, 2018

Response by authors Elizabeth Moran Fitzgerald and colleagues to Jason Roy on “Nurses Need Not Be Guilty Bystanders: Caring for Vulnerable Immigrant Populations” (December 1, 2016)

Dear Editor,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to the letter to the editor written by Jason Roy.  We are grateful for his interest in our manuscript and find his feedback exceptionally useful in furthering an important conversation.

As noted by Mr. Roy, Badaracco’s principles of Quiet Leadership provide specific strategies to deal with complex, multilayered issues surrounding incivility that can lead to win-win solutions.  Mr. Roy’s recognition of the need for both individual and institutional actions is in keeping with our aims, and we delight in his description of the practical application of the principles of Quiet Leadership: drilling down and tenacity.  To truly address racism and discrimination in the workplace, this intersectionality of individual and organizational action is crucial.

We wish to clarify the difference between the concept of guilty bystanding proposed by Thomas Merton (1966) and the principles of Quiet Leadership outlined by Joseph Badaracco (2002). Guilty bystanders remain silent when witnessing conversations and actions that perpetuate racism and discrimination.  Merton maintains that bystanders cannot be innocent when they are silent witnesses to such acts nor are they relieved of the responsibility for action (Padgett, 2009).


Elizabeth Moran Fitzgerald, EdD, MEd, M.S., RN, CNS-BC

Judith G. Myers, PhD, RN

Paul Clark, PhD, MA, RN


Badaracco, J. (2002). Leading quietly: An unorthodox guide to doing the right thing. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press

Merton, T. (1966). Letter to an innocent bystander. In T. Merton (Ed.), Raids on the unspeakable (pp. 53-62). New York, NY: New Directions.

Padgett, B. (2009). Professional morality and guilty bystanding: Merton's conjectures and the value of work. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub