Ethics are fundamental to nursing practice. Nurses face routine ethical dilemmas and analyzing these situations provides insight into the moral foundations of the field. This article will dive deeper into key ethical principles in nursing, provide detailed essay examples, discuss approaches for ethical analysis, and offer strategies to keep strengthening nurses’ everyday ethical practice.
What is Nursing Ethics?
Nursing ethics involve the values, duties, and responsibilities that provide a framework for practice. At the heart of nursing is caring for human beings at their most vulnerable. So ethics serve to guide nurses in protecting patients’ health, dignity, and rights.
Common values in nursing ethics include:
Beneficence – Promoting good and acting in patients’ best interests
Nonmaleficence – Avoiding harm to patients
Autonomy – Respecting patients’ right to make their own choices
Justice – Ensuring fair and equitable treatment for all
Veracity – Being truthful with patients
Confidentiality – Protecting patients’ private information
Nursing codes of ethics from groups like the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) outline standards for ethical practice nurses must uphold. But formal guidelines cannot address every situation. Nurses must also rely on core ethical values to guide individual patient encounters.
Why are Ethics Essential in Nursing?
Ethics serve several vital functions in nursing:
Establish trust between nurses, patients, and the public
Unite nurses behind shared moral aims and duties
Create accountability to professional standards
Guide decision-making when obligations conflict
Help balance risks and benefits of interventions
Outline nurses’ commitment to health, safety, and patient rights
Provide a process for thinking through moral dilemmas
Differentiate caring nurses from merely competent ones
By consistently modeling ethical behavior, nurses build trust with patients. Patients rely on nurses to make choices in their best interests, especially when they are incapacitated. Ethics also establish expectations within the profession so that nurses hold each other accountable.
Additionally, ethical foundations help nurses navigate competing obligations. Nurses have responsibilities to patients, providers, institutions, the profession, and public health. Determining the most ethical actions in a given situation allows nurses to fulfill duties in a considered, thoughtful way.
Challenging Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing
Nurses encounter ethical dilemmas frequently while caring for patients. Dilemmas arise when there are conflicts between moral principles or courses of action. Frequently faced ethical issues include:
1. Informed Consent
A patient scheduled for surgery develops last minute concerns but the family insists the procedure continue as planned. Consider: autonomy vs. beneficence.
2. Protecting Privacy
A nurse recognizes her neighbor while admitting him to the substance abuse treatment center where she works. Consider: confidentiality vs. neighborly courtesy.
3. Handling Errors
A nurse makes a mistake in medication dosage that leads to patient harm. She worries reporting the error could jeopardize her job. Consider: transparency vs. self-preservation.
4. Defying Authority
A senior nurse insists on using outdated procedures as nurses have “always done it this way.” Younger nurses feel patients are harmed by these methods. Consider: hierarchy vs. advocacy.
5. Assigning Resources
A nurse has one remaining dose of analgesic. Two of her patients are moaning in pain. Both have valid prescriptions for the medication. Consider: utilitarianism vs. egalitarianism.
6. End-of-Life Wishes
A dying patient’s last request is for the nurses to help her end her life. Assisted suicide is illegal in the state. Consider: patient rights vs. nurse duties.
Approaches to Ethical Analysis
Using ethical frameworks helps nurses systematically analyze dilemmas. Three popular frameworks are:
This focuses on the intrinsic rightness of an action based on rules and duties. Deontology argues certain actions are inherently moral or immoral regardless of context or outcome. It values intentions above consequences.
This values actions that achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. Utilitarianism judges choices by their practical outcomes rather than motives. The choice that benefits community over individuals is deemed ethical.
This feminist framework sees relationships and contextual needs as central to moral choices. Care ethics emphasizes nurses’ compassionate caring role. Key values are mutual respect, trust, cultivating relationships, and empowering patient voices.
There are strengths and limitations to each approach. Considering a dilemma through multiple ethical lenses allows nurses to make sound, thoughtful choices.
Developing an Ethical Practice
How can nurses expand their everyday ethical practice? Strategies include:
Self-assessment – Identify your core values and ethical blind spots through activities like reflective journaling or taking a moral inventory survey.
Ethics education – Take continuing education ethics courses. Learn appropriate frameworks for reasoning through dilemmas.
Peer feedback – Ask for open-minded feedback from nursing peers and mentorship from senior nurses.
Code review – Study the ANA Code of Ethics and facility policies. Know the procedures for handling ethically troubling situations.
Committee participation – Seek involvement with facility bioethics committees that review policies and consult on dilemmas.
Q&A – When facing an uncertain situation, seek guidance from experienced nurses, managers, and institutional ethicists.
Speaking up – Voice concerns assertively through proper channels if you observe unethical conduct.
Ongoing reflection – Regularly re-evaluate your ethical practice and look for areas of improvement. Ethics require lifelong learning.
Final Thoughts On Ethics Nursing Essay Examples
Nursing ethics provide the moral framework to guide decisions, especially when complex factors lead to dilemmas. By studying principles and strengthening skills in ethical reasoning, nurses gain confidence in their ability to practice ethically.
This upholds patient and public trust in the nursing profession. Most importantly, superb ethics enable nurses to fulfill their most central role – being the patient’s advocate and providing compassionate service to humanity.
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