How to Solve Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing

Honesty versus withholding information dilemma. The solution to this dilemma involves telling the truth. The nonmaleficence and fidelity principles mandate nurses to tell the truth. Nurses are obliged to disclose all medical information to a patient to maintain sound nurse-patient relationships. Withholding medical information is against patients’ rights. Telling the truth helps nurses avoid violating patients’ rights and ethical principles. Ethical standards guide nurses on diverse ethical dilemmas, including telling the truth versus withholding information.

Science versus spirituality. The ANA Code of Ethics commands nurses to respect each patient’s culture, value system, lifestyle, and beliefs. However, respecting a patient’s values and religious beliefs does not entail accepting them on a personal level. Nurses can forgo specific values and convictions to help a patient improve health outcomes. Nurses should be guided by science and nursing practice standards, not spirituality.

Healthcare needs versus resource allocation dilemma. Budget constraints require nurse managers to prioritize patient needs and determine the services to provide and those to halt. The solution to this dilemma involves including the staff in the budgeting process. The involvement allows each member to understand the challenges, needs, and demands in a healthcare facility. The awareness empowers nurses to work extra hard to accommodate all patients, eliminating a situation where a hospital cannot admit or treat patients. It also allows nurses to share available equipment and use resources efficiently.

Incompetence among colleagues. Nurses face the dilemma of reporting incompetency among peers or remaining silent and endanger patient safety. Nurses can solve the puzzle in two ways. First, they can talk to the practitioner in question to assess their awareness of the incompetence. Such engagement allows a nurse to encourage the incompetent colleague to seek further training or education. The approach eliminates the dilemma of reporting or not reporting incompetency. The second solution involves raising the concern with the management or those up the chain of command. When the administration is aware of the issue, they are likely to train the incompetent nurse instead of termination.

Understaffing. An inadequate workforce forces nurse managers to choose which patients to receive immediate care and those to wait. The problem has multiple solutions. First, nurse managers should inform top management about labor shortage and its impact on a facility’s reputation. The leadership will find alternative resources to manage the workload, such as hiring temporary healthcare providers. The second solution is to establish reasons why the facility faces labor shortages. The primary causes may include high employee turnover, lack of training, and inability to attract talents. In collaboration with human resources, nurse managers can implement policies, including increased pay, promotions, and paid leaves to attract top talents, reduce labor turnover, and retain employees.

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