What Actions Should a Nurse Take During an Ethical Dilemma?
Although most people would prefer that medical issues be clear and simple, situations arise that challenge more than nurses' clinical skills. Medicine involves people whose needs, situations and judgments sometimes create ethical challenges and quandaries. In some cases, nurses work in advanced areas of medicine where new procedures, drugs and technologies themselves present ethical considerations for the entire health care industry. The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses holds nurses responsible for their professional conduct. However, nurses' consciences often hold them to even higher standards.
o Sometimes, it helps to have guidelines. There are several resources for reviewing professional ethics. The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses outlines not just specific actions and behaviors for nurses to consider, but an entire outlook on the nursing profession. The ANA wrote the code in part to help nurses sort through their priorities and define their responsibilities in times of question or crisis. Additionally, every state has statutes that guide the nursing profession, including standards of ethical and professional conduct. If necessary, ask your state nursing boards for copies of scope of practice and ethical guidelines. o
o Nurses who work in clinical settings are never alone. When problems and issues arise, nursing supervisors and managers are there to support and guide you. Provided that the ethical dilemma doesn't involve a nurse manager, consult your supervisor for guidance. When an issue stems from the actions or requests of a physician, patient or family member, nurse supervisors are supposed to help you work through the challenging issue to achieve a resolution with integrity. If a nursing supervisor is at the heart of your dilemma, however, you should then go to another nurse manager or department administrator for help and guidance. o