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Ethical and Legal Issues in Nursing


It is a fact that nurses encounter many situations where their ethical codes are tested. Education plays a key role in understanding these matters, as well as the knowledge of legal concepts like licensing. While legislation is crucial in nurses’ practice, communication is vital for both providing a rewarding working environment and ensuring patients’ welfare.

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Case Study Reflection

The case study of this week embraces the concept of actions that nurses are required to take in the case with a DNR patient. The DNR, or the do-not-resuscitate policy, implies that a patient has chosen not to be treated by an emergency team in a case if his or her heart or breathing activity stops. While it is possible that a patient’s decision has been affected by particular concerns, which could be different in other conditions, it is the task of the medical personnel to treat it with respect.

It is a typical situation where the patient’s close relatives become frustrated with the actions of the reanimating team during the DNR case. Their feelings are understandable as the loss of a family member is always a tragedy. While they could have changed the outcome by studying the patient’s orders beforehand, they rarely do so. This situation underlines the importance of communication between family members and health care staff for preventing such results. While patient’s relatives may question the actions of nurses, they should always keep in mind that they deal with professionals who have been licensed by a competent authority like the NCSBN, which proves they are aware of all the procedures that need to be followed in each situation arising at work. The nurses’ certification also serves as proof that people taking care of patients know the legal procedures for each case.

Personal Experience

My experience regarding the ethical issues at work does not include such extreme events as a conflict with relatives due to the DNR policy for their family members. However, in the past, I encountered a situation when a man was frustrated by our team since we did not pay enough individual attention to his grandmother recovering from the surgery. The lady had specifically asked the personnel to not disturb her for matters other than the required medical procedures. If the man talked to his grandmother and discussed the reasons for her decision, there would be no conflict with the nurses. This situation serves as an excellent example of how communication is crucial in health care and why family members must take an active part in it without transferring this function entirely to nurses.

Helping Nurses

Hospital’s administration is often the force that should serve to resolve any ethical conflicts regarding the nursing practice. However, it sometimes happens that nurses have to solve the issues themselves and even call for action if they discover that the fundamental requirements in this field are violated. According to the Code of Ethics, the working conditions are a part of what nurses must pay attention to and improve if required (Lachman, Swanson, & Windland-Brown, 2015, p. 364). However, many hospitals have issues with ensuring the proper working conditions and defending the rights of their staff. Communications prove to be useful here as well. Collective bargaining (Huston, 2016, p. 305) is a great tool for insisting on the nurses’ rights. Whistleblowing may also become a solution for addressing the existing issues. It must be remembered that at all times, it is more beneficial to solve a conflict internally without engaging the side parties.


Ethics is a part of the nursing practice that is present in everyday actions. It cannot be neglected, as the failure to recognize its importance leads to conflicts with patients and staff. Communication is crucial for both relatives and medical staff for ensuring the proper treatment and safe environment.


Huston, C. J. (2016). Professional issues in nursing: Challenges and opportunities (4th ed.). Ambler, PA: Wolters Kluwer.

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Lachman, V.D., Swanson, E.O., & Windland-Brown, J. (2015). The new “code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements” (2015): Practical clinical application, part II. MEDSURG Nursing, 24(5), 363-366.

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