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Patients’ Needs and Their Right to Autonomy


Nursing is an integral part of healthcare today as it improves treatment outcomes via effective cooperation with patients, consideration of their needs, and the creation of a beneficial environment. Working directly with patients, nurses can be viewed as the care providers responsible for the high satisfaction levels and observation of existing rules. At the same time, the scope of practice and the diversity of individuals’ needs introduce additional complexity and multiple challenges specialists might face in their functioning. Moreover, the increase in the number of patients with chronic diseases and acute states means that they often might experience a lack of time. Under these conditions, time management and distribution of tasks acquire the top priority as the way to attain desired outcomes. However, it is vital to consider patients’ needs and their right to autonomy.

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Patient Autonomy and the Lack of Time

In general, respect for clients’ needs is one of the most important features of the healthcare sector today. Patient autonomy is the right of patients to make their decisions related to treatment and the provision of care without care providers’ impact on the decision-making (Nettina, 2018). In other words, health workers can provide individuals with information about their current health status, disease, treatment, and preferred approaches; however, they are not allowed to make decisions instead of patients and force them to engage in some activities (Nettina, 2018). The given concept is basic for health facilities today, and it introduces some changes in the functioning of nurses as they have to observe the code of ethics and, at the same time, guarantee the achievement of desired results.

If a nurse is pressed for time in a specific hospital setting, the problem of maintaining the efficiency and, at the same time, respecting the autonomy emerges. As it has already been stated, the patients’ ability to make correct decisions about their care critically depends on nurses’ activities aimed at the provision of detailed information related to diseases and their treatment. It might demand additional time for explanation and education. In terms of the lack of time, new strategies should be used to observe the existing code of ethics and respect patients. First of all, a nurse can use technologies available for health workers today, such as telehealth or other communicative devices, to remain in touch with all patients and be ready to respond to their requests if they emerge (Jacobs, 2019). Moreover, the problem can be solved by grouping patients with similar needs to educate them together and save time. Finally, it is possible to prioritize tasks and firstly work with patients who demand support most of all as they are in complex states (Jacobs, 2019). It will also help to preserve the effectiveness and ensure that all patients are stable.

However, the given solutions and the lack of time can precondition various ethical issues and conflicts. First of all, the patients might feel the lack of attention and demonstrate their dissatisfaction because of the inappropriate care or cooperation with a nurse. At the same time, prioritization of clients can also be considered unethical by some groups or individuals (Jacobs, 2019). For this reason, it is vital to select the most effective ways to respond to these problematic situations and ensure patients that their health and lives are still valuable and respected.

The first possible strategy to respect the autonomy of patients and avoid the emergence of ethical conflicts is the personal communication aimed at the explanation of the situation and the implemented approach. The given method will demonstrate to patients that a nurse respects the autonomy of a patient, is ready to cooperate, and is interested in outcomes. At the same time, the complex conditions and environment existing at the moment impact his/her functioning and should be considered, which might affect the cooperation with patients in the future (Nettina, 2018). This explanation is critical for the alignment of trustful relations with all clients and avoiding their complaints or the appearance of ethical issues.

Another possible strategy to respect autonomy is the provision of patients with all materials that might be needed to improve their current understanding of their illness and acquire all information that might help them to make informed decisions. There are several advantages of this method. First of all, all clients will benefit from the limitless access to the knowledge they need to understand the treatment plan and how it might help them. At the same time, nurses can save time and remain in contact with patients as they should provide their explanations and recommendations if any questions emerge (Zhu et al., 2020). The adherence to the given strategy will help to remain effective and, at the same time, sole problematic concerns that might appear while collaborating with clients and respecting their autonomy.

Prioritization of Patient Autonomy

However, the diversity of clients’ needs and the existence of multiple problems might introduce the additional complexity to the functioning of a nurse, and he/she becomes obliged to prioritize autonomy over a different value of nursing. It means the patients’ decisions should play a central role in the provision of care, even if they seem inappropriate for a nurse. Thus, being an educated specialist, a health worker possesses an enhanced understanding of the situation and has his/her own perspective on how care should be provided. The existence of these two opinions might precondition the development of a conflict, and it is vital to correctly realize the fact that there are situations when patients’ autonomy should be prioritized over other aspects of care delivery.

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For instance, respect for patients’ dignity is one of the core values in the modern healthcare sector. The concept of patient autonomy also includes this idea as all individuals have the right to act in ways that do not cause damage to their feelings and self-esteem. Under these conditions, a nurse should accept a patient’s desire to avoid having some procedure that might seem humiliating to him/her if the positive effect of this intervention is not significant or cannot precondition positive changes in the patient’s state (Zhu et al., 2020). For clients with fatal diseases that cannot be treated, the given statement becomes especially topical as they might have the desire to spend their last hours with dignity and in the way they want.

Additionally, patient autonomy can be prioritized if an individual possesses the correct understanding of the current situation and all knowledge needed for effective decision-making. Under these conditions, his/her decisions are justified by relevant and credible evidence taken from the scholarly literature, and he/she correctly realizes the consequences of this solution. For instance, if there are several approaches to treatment and a health worker views one as an advantageous one, it is still vital to prioritize the patient autonomy and let clients decide which of the existing methods to use to guarantee recovery (Atreya et al., 2018). It is a guaranty that a patient will remain involved in the treatment process and will feel satisfied, which is central to the achievement of positive outcomes.

Summarizing the given ideas, it should be stated that patient autonomy is fundamental for the modern healthcare sector. In the situations mentioned above, the observation of this code helps to demonstrate a patient that he/she possesses the right to manage his/her body and accept or decline some decisions that seem less attractive to him/her (Zhu et al., 2020). It is a core element of the modern ethics and healthcare sector. Prioritization of clients’ needs and decisions is needed to engage them in care and align the useful cooperation between all actors, which will have a positive impact on outcomes. For this reason, there are situations when nurses and patients might have different perspectives on a certain issue; however, it is critical to make a compromise and select a solution that will satisfy all parties.


Altogether, the modern healthcare sector rests on the idea that patients are central to the treatment process, and they should be involved in it. This task can be achieved by respecting their views on care provision, attitudes, and ideas. Under these conditions, the concept of patient autonomy acquires the top priority as one of the factors impacting the work of nurses and regulating their cooperation with patients. It is necessary to correctly realize the nature of some situations and decide whether patients’ needs should be prioritized over nursing values.


Atreya, A., Kanchan, T., & Shah, R. K. (2018). Patient autonomy and doctor’s concern – a case of intravenous drug abuser. Medico-Legal Journal, 86(2), 100–103. Web.

Jacobs, G. (2019). Patient autonomy in home care: Nurses’ relational practices of responsibility. Nursing Ethics, 26(6), 1638–1653. Web.

Nettina, S. (2018). Lippincott manual of nursing practice (11th ed.). LWW.

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Zhu, L., Zhang, S., & Lu, Z. (2020). Respect for autonomy: Seeking the roles of healthcare design from the principle of biomedical ethics. HERD: Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 13(3), 230–244. Web.

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