As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, ethical challenges can arise and affect organizations and patients in many ways. There are always ethical dilemmas, and the nursing field is no exception. However, understanding the types of dilemmas that occur is instrumental for addressing them in a professional and productive way that’s beneficial for all parties involved. Here are three of the most common ethical dilemmas in nursing:
Patient refuses treatment.
A patient refusing recommended treatment is a very common ethical dilemma in nursing. A patient may refuse treatment for various reasons; however, a nurse must respond ethically to this issue. You can first listen closely to the patient’s concerns as a nurse. Once you’ve understood their perspective, it’s important to inform and educate them about the treatment and its pros and cons. Discussing the treatment in detail with the patient’s family members will also ensure everyone understands the recommended course of action for their specific medical needs.
Incompetence among nursing staff.
When a nurse is incompetent at their job (or parts of their job), patient care and safety can be adversely affected. For example, forgetting to take a patient’s blood pressure reading or focusing more on one patient’s needs over another can inevitably cause an ethical dilemma. To prevent or eliminate incompetence, regular documentation of a nurse’s duties ensures that patients get the proper oversight and attention.
Inadequate staffing can pose many ethical concerns for nurses at all types of facilities. When the ratio of nurses to patients is insufficient, the quality of patient care can be compromised, and morale among staff can quickly go down. When there are not enough nurses to handle patient volume, this can adversely affect patient safety and put nurses at risk for increased liabilities.
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