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Ethics in Nursing: Addressing Hypothetical Dilemmas

Following the Nursing Code of Ethics: A Personal Experience

Making an ethical choice in a nursing setting is often difficult due to the presence of a moral dilemma. However, following the Nursing Code of Ethics helps distinguish between making a sensible choice and a misguided attempt at doing so (American Nurses Association, 2018). A recent experience of catering to the needs of diverse customers in a real nursing setting served as a bright example of the difficulties that nurses have to face when making ethics-related decisions. Because of the conflict between keeping an underage patient’s anonymity according to nursing ethics and the need to disclose the information to his parents, the ethical dilemma became very heavy to handle.

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The situation described above implied a conflict with the second provision of the guide. Particularly, according to the ANA Code of Ethics, a nurse must be committed to a patient, no matter who represents the latter. In other words, the interests of a family are regarded just as highly in nursing as those of an individual patient (American Nurses Association, 2015). Since failing to tell the family of the patient with a mental health issue about the problem implied deceiving the family, it was harmful to both the patient and his family members. However, by telling the latter the truth, a nurse would have broken the ethical standards that require respecting a patient’s right to withhold personal information (American Nurses Association, 2018). Therefore, resolving the situation would require not only following the Code of Ethics but also conducting long conversations with both the patient and his family to ensure that they could trust each other. As a result, the basis for family support and the following increase in the opportunities for the patient’s recovery could have been created.

Treating a Colleague with a Substance Abuse Problem

While managing ethical dilemmas related to patients might be rather challenging, there is an air of professional detachment that makes coping with the specified issues comparatively easily. However, the situation changes when one must face a problem with a coworker. In case a colleague shows the signs of substance abuse, a more detailed investigation of the situation is due. One must check typical signs and symptoms of a substance abuse disorder (SUD), such as absence from work for extended periods of time, going to the bathroom very frequently, and making numerous errors (National Council of the State Boards of Nursing, 2014). After evaluating a situation, a nurse must report the problem to a superior. The identified set of measures might seem rather aggressive when applied toward a colleague, yet it helps detect the issue at the earliest stages of its development and offer appropriate assistance before the problem grows out of proportion.

Regarding daily interactions with a colleague that has the signs of SUD, one should be polite and caring, at the same time showing respect. There might be a significant change in relationships between a nurse and a colleague with SUD since the issue is very sensitive. A coworker must offer a nurse with SUD enough empathy to encourage the latter to accept treatment, yet also be delicate and tactful. Otherwise, a nurse with SUD may refuse to take the offered help. Moreover, other nurses will need to manage personal biases such as prejudices against people with SUD before conversing with the coworker in question. By showing a nurse with SUD that their colleagues are both willing to help and respectful of the nurse’s privacy and personal feelings, one will be able to create the environment for a positive behavioral change.


American Nurses Association. (2015). Code of ethics with interpretative statements.

American Nurses Association (2018). Ethics and human rights.

National Council of the State Boards of Nursing. (2014). A nurse manager’s guide to substance use disorder in nursing. Web.

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