As a nurse responsible for the care of multiple patients, ethical issues are inevitable in the nursing profession. Nursing ethics have become more complex in today’s healthcare system, encompassing various aspects such as patient care, treatments, and decision-making. Nurses are required to adhere to the formal code of ethics for nurses while striving to provide optimal healthcare.
What are Ethical Issues in Nursing?
Ethical issues in nursing are vital to the profession and fall within the broader scope of medical and health ethics. Assessing the nature and challenges of healthcare procedures is typically based on fundamental principles. These principles include:
– Autonomy: Respecting patients’ independence and ensuring their desires are considered.
– Justice: Fairly allocating healthcare resources and setting spending limits.
– Beneficence: Acting in the best interests of the patient and determining goals to be achieved.
– Non-maleficence: Identifying and avoiding harm to patients.
These guidelines assist healthcare providers in recognizing ethical issues and addressing them through open communication with patients regarding their preferences.
A Quick Overview of Ethical Issues in Nursing
Ethics play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the nursing profession and delivering the best possible care to patients. Nursing careers can be rewarding yet challenging, and nurses worldwide face similar ethical dilemmas. These challenges often arise from decision-making, moral obligations, staffing concerns, and more.
As the nursing profession continues to attract new practitioners, it becomes essential for experienced nurse supervisors and Chief Nursing Officers (CNOs) to take the lead in addressing ethical issues in nursing. Failing to effectively address these issues can result in a decline in the quality of patient care, moral distress, and strained clinical relationships. Nurse supervisors bear additional responsibility as new nurses look to them for guidance and mentorship in the challenging field of nursing. It is crucial for all nursing departments to work together to make ethical decisions that prioritize the needs of all parties involved.
Common Examples of Legal and Ethical Issues in Nursing
While each day in nursing presents unique challenges, many hospital administrators encounter similar ethical issues. A recent study identified protecting patients’ rights, staffing concerns, advanced care planning, and decision-making as the most common and difficult ethical circumstances.
The influx of novice nurses who lack extensive experience in dealing with ethical dilemmas further exacerbates the problem. Competent hospital administrators are more crucial than ever in meeting the demands of everyday healthcare across the country.
Here are a few examples of typical ethical issues in nursing:
1. Spirituality vs. Science:
The conflict between healthcare practices based on scientific evidence and personal or religious convictions.
2. Autonomy vs. Beneficence:
Balancing patient autonomy with medical recommendations and the best interests of the patient.
3. Healthcare needs vs. Resource allocation:
The challenge of providing necessary care within the constraints of limited resources, such as medical technology and personnel.
4. Honesty vs. Information withholding:
Balancing patients’ right to information about their health conditions with the desires of family members who may wish to protect them from distressing news.
Consequences of Avoiding Ethical Issues in Nursing
Nurses encounter ethical issues regardless of their specialization or the type of healthcare institution they work in. It is essential for nurses to recognize and address ethical problems, finding strategies to balance their personal values with their professional responsibilities. Avoiding ethical challenges can lead to adverse outcomes. Here are some potential consequences of failing to address ethical issues in nursing:
1. Legal problems:
Avoiding ethical dilemmas can result in legal troubles, as some ethical concerns have significant legal implications. It is crucial to address these issues properly to avoid legal complications.
Ethical issues in nursing contribute to an environment ripe for anxiety-related burnout. Nurses must be vigilant in recognizing signs of burnout and seeking solutions to mitigate stress levels and prevent a decline in the quality of care they provide.
3. Loss of license:
Failing to address common ethical issues in nursing can result in the loss of a nursing license. Nurses should seek guidance from superiors and address ethical challenges appropriately to protect their professional standing.
4. Job loss:
Nurses who avoid morally challenging situations risk facing disciplinary action, including termination. Failure to confront ethical issues in the workplace can jeopardize job security.
Current Ethical Issues in Healthcare
Ethical choices in healthcare often have less severe consequences compared to illegal actions. While there is no legal requirement for healthcare administrators to guarantee reduced wait times in overcrowded emergency rooms, it can be ethically sound for them to address this issue with administrative panels. Here are some current ethical issues in healthcare:
1. Confidentiality of medical records:
The ethical dilemma of concealing or disclosing patients’ health information, considering the potential harm to the patient or others.
2. Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders:
Ethical questions arise when determining whether a patient has the mental capacity to make decisions regarding DNR orders.
3. Access to care:
The ethical challenge of balancing healthcare resource demands and financial constraints, which can affect patients’ access to necessary treatments.
4. Malpractice and negligence:
The high-risk nature of healthcare increases the likelihood of medical mistakes and malpractice. Administrators must ensure the provision of basic, standard care to mitigate the risk of negligence claims.
5. Physician-assisted suicide:
The ethical debate surrounding the involvement of medical professionals in assisting patients with ending their lives.
Common Ethical Issues in Nursing
Nursing ethics are essential for upholding the dignity of the nursing profession and promoting positive patient outcomes. The American Nurses Association’s (ANA) nursing code of ethics provides guidance in addressing major ethical challenges in nursing. Here are some common ethical issues in nursing:
1. Aggressive interventions:
The ethical dilemma of deciding whether to provide unnecessary care or aggressive interventions when a patient’s condition is deteriorating.
2. Artificial hydration and nutrition:
The complex ethical considerations involved in providing artificial hydration and nutrition to patients, which can raise challenging questions for patients, families, and staff.
3. The opioid crisis:
Ethical issues arise in nursing when dealing with the opioid crisis, as nurses must balance the ethical regulations surrounding opioid use with patients’ needs and pain management.
4. Anti-Vaccine issues:
Ethical questions arise when respecting patients’ autonomy regarding childhood vaccinations while considering public health concerns and the potential risks of not vaccinating.
Nursing professionals are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the ANA’s code of ethics, as it serves as a compass for navigating ethical challenges in the nursing profession. By addressing these ethical issues effectively, nurses can uphold their professional responsibilities and provide the highest quality of care to their patients.