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How a Registered Nurse Deal With an Ethical Dilemma

Career News March 15, 2013

As a registered nurse (RN), you need to understand that ethical dilemma may happen when you deal with patients. Nurses are required to learn how to balance the desire of family members, patients’ needs, and the rules of the hospital. If you know how to deal with ethical dilemmas as they arise; you would be able to provide the best patient care.

Identifying Dilemma

Nurses need to identify the issue before they are able to solve any potential ethical quandary. Typically, ethical problems occur when nurses face contradictions between ethical practices, medical standards, orders from the doctor, and wishes of family members.

Identifying all aspect of the situation and recognizing the problem is the initial step in dealing with the issues. Nurses need to recognize the rules of the medical facility, dilemma, and possible contradictions between wishes of family members or patient and medical practices.

The dilemma may be a life-threatening situation. Nurses will be required to make split-second decisions based on possible problems associated with poor quality of life, the rules of the medical facility, and patients’ wishes. According to the National Library of Medicine, nurses could be required to confront the policies of the institution when the best interests of the patient contradict the policies of the medical facility.

Ultimately, identifying and recognizing the dilemma could make it simpler for nurses to solve the problem. Nurses may face legal ramifications, if they fail to recognize every aspect involved in a decision.

Communication with Patients

In order to maintain high ethical standards, registered nurse needs to communicate with patients. Figuring out the wishes of the patients plays a critical role in an ethical dilemma since the individual has the right to make decisions about their own treatment.

Nurses will need to discuss with patients about their situation and figure out their wishes with regards to treatment. According to the New York State Nurses Association, patients do have the right to refuse treatment and can sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” agreement, if the situation deteriorates and resuscitation measures are needed to save their life.

Before a nurse makes any decisions, their top priority should be consulting with patients about their wishes. While registered nurses need to take measures in saving lives, a patient has the right to avoid resuscitation or refuse treatment.

If a nurse wants to find out about a patient’s belief systems; they should communicate with the patient whenever possible. DeWolf Bosek who is a MS for the National Library of Medicine writes that nurses can make satisfactory decisions about ethical dilemmas by communicating with patients.

Intervene on Behalf of the Patient

Registered nurse solving an ethical quandary usually requires the nurse to step up and speak for the family members of the patient or the patients themselves. All patients in the medical facility and hospital have the right to ask for specific supportive solutions or healthcare measures. In some instances, nurses are required to step in and express patient’s wishes to the physicians.

Nurses are the ones who bring wishes from either the patient or patient’s family to the attention of physicians; physicians will be the ones who make the final decision. According to Janet Boivin, nurses usually represent patients or their family when it comes time to meet the wishes of the patients or changing hospital rules.

If a nurse intervenes on behalf of a patient, this does not mean they have broken any rules in the establishment. Instead, a nurse is required to bring up the patient’s wishes to medical staff or physicians that are involved with the patient’s care. Nurses will be able to ensure that proper healthcare measures are being taken with regard to the patient’s belief system when they intervene and bring the patient’s wishes to the doctor’s attention.

Registered nurses are required to carefully evaluate the situations to deal with ethical dilemmas. Every situation and patient differs, so the proper solutions to ethical challenges a nurse may face will vary with every patient. In some cases, nurses will deal with challenging situations; communicating with the patient, recognizing the problems, and bringing up concerns of patients to doctors will resolve the issues.

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