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Ethical Dilemmas in the Nursing Field Essay

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Updated: Aug 3rd, 2021

Introduction

Nurses encounter a myriad of ethical dilemmas because of the nature of their work. They are engaged in all stages of healthcare system, helping in policy formulation and making critical decisions. As per Cope, Jones, and Hendricks (2016), nurses have an obligation to ensure that patients get quality health services. In the process, they have to attain balance between maleficence and non-maleficence. In my nursing career, I have encountered many impasses, but one that has remained in my mind involved dealing with an elderly patient. I was taking care of an elderly woman who suffered from occasional convulsions, thus she required a lot of attention. In spite of her living in a storey building, she always liked walking down stairs and taking a stroll in the neighborhood. At times, she would complain that I was infringing on her privacy, as I insisted on being there whenever she wanted to go out.

Personal Experience

I had challenges deciding on whether to let her walk alone. The ethical principle of autonomy requires nurses to respect the freedom of their patients (Vosner, Zeleznik, Kokol, Vosner, & Zavrsnik, 2016). They should allow them to make independent decisions. In as much as I wished to respect the lady’s confidentiality and freedom, I did not want to risk her injuring herself in the event that she got seizures in my absence. As a human, I felt that the safety of the lady took precedence; hence I could not allow her to walk alone. It was difficult to convince her that she would be danger in case she opted to go out without alerting me. I had to always accompany her to a public park where she liked to visit. Nonetheless, she made sure that I was aware of her disapproval of my presence. Eventually, we had to compromise on some issues to avoid the likelihood of protracted differences. The lady allowed me to accompany her to the park, but I had to respect her independence by sitting on distant bench.

Lessons from this Course

The study of nursing ethics has been of significant value to me as it has enabled me to view many things from a different perspective. In the past, I had difficulties striking a balance guaranteeing the safety of patients and respecting their privacy. However, after this course, I have realized that the wellbeing of a patient is paramount and should take precedence. If torn between the principles of autonomy and maleficence, I would opt for the latter. At times, nurses are forced to subject patients to pain as a way to save life (Preshaw, Brazil, McLaughlin, & Frolic, 2015). Even though the principle of non-maleficence demands that nurses do not injure patients, at times it is necessary to take such measures for their wellbeing.

Guiding Staff in a Similar Situation

As a nurse leader, I would encourage my staff to always put the safety of their patients first. Faced with a case like mine, I would advise them to sit down with the patient and explain to him/her the risks that she might subject herself to by going out alone. I would also suggest that they try to resolve the issue by agreeing on arrangements that would not expose a patient to danger.

Conclusion

The nursing career is awash with ethical dilemmas that nurses have to navigate to provide quality healthcare. The principle of autonomy demand medical professionals to respect the freedom of their patients. Nonetheless, it is imperative to ensure that one does not engage in risky activities. Faced with a dilemma that pits a patient’s security against their independence, a nurse should choose the former.

References

Cope, V. C., Jones, B., & Hendricks, J. (2016). Residential aged care nurses: Portraits of resilience. Contemporary Nurse, 52(6), 736-752.

Preshaw, D. H. L., Brazil, K., McLaughlin, D., & Frolic, A. (2015). Ethical issues experienced by healthcare workers in nursing homes: Literature review. Nursing Ethics, 23(5), 490-506.

Vosner, H. B., Zeleznik, D., Kokol, P., Vosner, J., & Zavrsnik, J. (2016). Trends in nursing ethics research: Mapping the literature production. Nursing Ethics, 24(8), 892-907.

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