Ethics is vital for the healthcare profession because it is the basis of the whole nursing practice. Nurses are expected to treat all patients equally and to provide unbiased services, which presupposes adherence to ethical standards (Mallari & Tariman, 2017). It is their ethical responsibility to follow the policies of their healthcare facilities and to make patient’s well-being of the priority. They need to follow the Code of Ethical Conduct that reveals all those responsibilities they acquire when becoming nurses. In this way, there is a particular guideline that reveals mandates regarding the way these professionals should act and what that they should do. However, sometimes nurses face those situations when they cannot determine how they should act focusing only on their ethical responsibilities. These cases are called ethical dilemmas. In particular, these are those situations that can be treated with “two possible resolutions, each of which can be justified in moral terms” (Feeney & Freeman, 2016, p. 86).
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To solve this kind of dilemma, a nurse should consider all those forces that can affect a patient’s healthcare outcomes. The influence of each of them is to be analyzed in detail to ensure that it is possible to improve the observed situation. Thus, it is possible to focus on personal experiences or ask other professionals for advice. Nevertheless, the patient’s interests should remain on the front burner. Even though the resolution of ethical dilemmas can lead to either positive or negative consequences, it always has some beneficial points initially. Thus, ethical responsibilities reveal the way a professional should act while ethical dilemmas put one in a situation when it is critical to select one of two possible actions.
Ethical Dilemmas in Current Nursing
Nowadays, nurses face different ethical dilemmas while working but in the majority of cases they are connected with informed consent, the disclosure of medical conditions, and incompetence. In some cases, nurses are not allowed to disclose complete information about treatment or clinical prognosis. As a result, they cannot provide these facts to families and patients, which causes great concern. An issue occurs, when professionals need to determine what they can say and what should remain unknown while they are expected to tell the truth to their clients. Sometimes, a patient’s relatives ask nurses to conceal bad news regarding diagnosis or expected outcomes to minimalize his/her worries. However, nurses have an ethical responsibility, to tell the truth to their patients, which puts them in a complicated situation.
Finally, one nurse may notice some incompetence in the actions of his/her colleague. In this case, a professional will face a necessity to decide whether it is better to report this information and to protect patients or to conceal this fact and to protect the staff. Moreover, nurses may be unwilling to disclose this information because the number of experienced professionals on the shift may be reduced and the well-being of both peers and clients will be at risk. It is possible that overloaded nurses will not be able to perform as usual or that newcomers will not have enough knowledge and skills to cope with new duties. Moreover, the fact of reporting may cause conflicts between nurses, preventing them from focusing on a patient’s health. In addition to that, ethical dilemmas may be associated with the creation of an appropriate work environment, development of social justice, and moral distress.
Feeney, S., & Freeman, N. K. (2016). Ethical issues: Responsibilities and dilemmas. YC: Young Children, 71(1), 86.
Mallari, G., & Tariman, J. (2017). Ethical frameworks for decision making in nursing practice and research. Journal of Nursing Practice Applications and Reviews of Research, 7(1), 50-57.
Wood, D. (n.d.). 4 common nursing ethics dilemmas. Web.
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