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Examples of Ethical Dilemmas that Nurses face Every Day

Nursing is a career where ethical dilemmas are presented nearly every day. Whether a nurse works in a hospital, doctors office or medical clinic, she likely will find that she is faced with a tough decision at least once a day if not once an hour. Ethical dilemmas are especially difficult because there is usually not a clear cut right or wrong answer. The solutions to most ethical dilemmas are not always happy solutions or easy solutions. To make matters even trickier for nurses, the same ethical dilemma on two different occasions may require a different solution each time. The following are several common ethical dilemmas that nurses face while on the job.

Examples of Ethical Dilemmas that Nurses Deal with on a Regular Basis

•Dealing with the pro-life and pro-choice debate. As nurses are people too, they usually have opinions on this heated topic in America. The difficulty comes in when a nurse who has one view point has to take care of a patient who has a different viewpoint. In this ethical dilemma example, a nurse might consider it important that a woman has a right to choose, and a patient comes in whose own life is in jeopardy due to a pregnancy, but the patient is vehemently against the abortion. This is one example of a difficult situation a nurse might be faced with during her shift.

•Nurses often are forced to walk a fine line between patient freedom and nurse control. For instance, a patient might decide that she is not going to use pain medication during child birth, but a nurse might feel she will have a better outcome if she uses pain medication. The nurse and her leader must decide at what point, and if there is a point, that the patient should no longer have the freedom to make a medical choice for herself.

•Most nurses find themselves in ethical dilemmas when working with minors. All patients are afforded a certain amount of privacy by law, but some information about minors must be shared with parents. A nurse might have difficulty dealing with a minor patient that has a medical problem they do not want their parents to know about. This is a tough position that pediatric nurses face each day, and it is important that they know the law as well as work with their supervisors closely in cases such as these.

•Being open and honest with patients can be extremely difficult for nurses. Some nurses have difficulty determining whether it is best for a patient to know the truth, or whether it is better to fib a little to keep the patient relaxed and happier. For instance, if a doctor informs the nurse that the patient has something extremely wrong with them, but the nurse knows the stress this news will cause and only make matters worse, she must decide how and when to deliver this information. This is a difficult ethical dilemma example that nurses will probably encounter nearly every day that they work.

•Another ethical dilemma that can be troublesome for nurses is balancing empirical knowledge that a nurse knows is a fact versus a patient’s personal or religious beliefs. Many religious beliefs prevent people from having certain medical procedures done. Sometimes, these same procedures could be life saving for a patient. A nurse needs to know how to walk the line between explaining a patient the options that he or she might have versus offending the patient’s personal or religious beliefs. In addition, the nurse must come up with a way to deal with the patient’s family in this situation as well.

As if nursing wasn’t a difficult career in and of itself, the ethical dilemmas that nurses face each day make it even more challenging for nurses in the field. Couple this with a nursing shortage and many nurses leave their shifts feeling stressed and tired. When it comes to ethical dilemmas, nurses should work closely with a team to help support one another and come up with individual solutions to individual problems. It is essential that nurses recognize there isn’t one right or wrong answer to any particular problem, and each situation must be analyzed on an individual basis.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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