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Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing Research Paper

Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing Research Paper

I chose the topic of Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing for my research paper because I feel that this is a very common problem that I will be faced with often in my career as a nurse, and I thought that it would be interesting and informative to delve down into ethical issues I may come across in this field of work and ways to handle and combat them. In this paper, I will discuss the moments where your moral standards do not perfectly align with your professional standards of care and how they relate to the Franciscan Values we are expected to uphold as Nurses and Student Nurses at St. Elizabeth School of Nursing and the University of Saint Francis.

What is an Ethical Dilemma? An ethical dilemma, also known as a moral dilemma, is a situation in which there are two options from which a person can choose, both of which will bring a negative result based on societal and personal values and morals, leaving the person unsatisfied with the result no matter the choice. An example of an ethical dilemma a typical person may face is if a deer jumps out in front of your car while you’re driving down the road, and you must make the decision to either hit the deer and kill it as well as damage your vehicle or swerve into the lane of oncoming traffic and risk hitting another driver. At that moment, you must put a value on the lives of other living beings as well as make a decision on which option poses the most risk. However, neither outcome will be a pleasant one. (your dictionary)

When working with patients, Nurses will often have to call on a Nursing Code of Ethics to deal with difficult situations. “Every day, nurses in all hospital departments face a variety of ethical issues, and they need to reconcile their own values with their nursing professional obligations,” said Marian Altman, RN, MS, CNS-BC, CCRN-K, clinical practice specialist with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). (AMN Healthcare, INC.) Nurses who do not follow and abide by the nursing code of ethics can also find themselves, at times, at risk of facing legal trouble. ‘To no surprise, professionals in the field of Nursing, who don’t know the code of ethics, typically face a higher risk of being involved in situations that could lead to disciplinary charges or malpractice litigations, added David Griffiths, senior vice president, Nurses Service Organization, a professional liability insurance provider.” (AMN Healthcare, INC.) The code of ethics for Nurses sets a guideline for nurses to follow; it tells us that as Nurses, we should respect patients and clients and work to preserve their dignity, exhibit empathy, be devoted to professionalism, have accountability, responsibility, and conscience, show justice in services, commit to being honest and loyal, maintain patient’s privacy, and commitment to confidentiality, and trust, work toward continuous improvement of scientific and practical competence, promote the awareness of professional rules and ethical guidelines, and respecting them, show mutual respect and appropriate communication with other health care providers, and show compassion and kindness. (Zahedi.) These are just a select few of the ethical guidelines that nurses are expected to uphold.

Having now given you a little insight on what an ethical dilemma is and what the ethical code Nurses are expected to follow is, I’d like to go over a few of the possible situations that may arise when you’re a Nurse, and your own personal Moral beliefs conflict with professional, ethical guidelines. Through my research into this topic, I have found that one major topic where personal morals and professional, ethical guidelines may become an issue is during the end-of-life decision-making process. It is common that a Nurse may feel that a patient and their family may not be well enough informed about treatments, prognosis, and procedures. Often in this situation, patients and their families will turn to their Nurse to answer these questions; the issue then becomes disclosing enough information for the patient to be informed, while finding an ethical balance between how much information and what information the nurse may convey.

Another example of an ethical dilemma is telling the truth to a patient vs. being deceptive. I have been told of situations where a patient’s family has asked the nurse not to disclose a patient’s prognosis to the patient or their medical condition for any number of reasons. While the reasons behind the family’s requests may be reasonable and even understandable to the Nurse, the Nurse must first and foremost consider the patient’s right to know the information.

Ethical dilemmas are not just limited to nurses and their patients or the patient’s friends and family. Ethical dilemmas also present themselves in situations involving nurses and their peers. If a Nurse sees that one of her peers is practicing unsafe or unethical habits, that Nurse then begins the battle of whether she should report it. A nurse can find herself making excuses for her peers, like, “oh, she was having such a bad day, I know she’s a good nurse and won’t do it again.”, in an attempt to avoid causing trouble for her peer and to avoid a possible confrontation. However, this is not an ethical practice, and it should most certainly be reported, no matter the outcome.

These are just a select few of the ethical dilemmas that a Nurse may face throughout her career. The scope of ethical dilemmas extends far and wide. When faced with these challenging situations, the dilemma then becomes how to balance the conflicting feelings and issues. Nurses are the caregivers at the forefront of the lines, and we, as nurses, have the most interactions with our patients and their friends and family, and with that privilege comes very great responsibility and extremely important decisions to be made, sometimes decisions that need to be made in a split second.

These ethical dilemmas are why the American Nurses Association has set in place this extensive and thorough Code of Ethics for Nurses to live and work by. It is important to ALWAYS put professionalism above our own personal thoughts and opinions. As a Nurse, it is imperative to understand human thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, and even cultures that differ from ourselves. When making a decision that had come as a part of an ethical dilemma, a Nurse must remember that our patients and their families may not have the same set of morals and values that we have personally and that when we made the decision to become a Nurse, we pledged to abide by the Nurse’s Code of Ethics. This code, though it may not seem to fit perfectly into every situation, is put in place to protect not only the patients and their families but the nurse as well. It is not up to a Nurse to do what we feel is right by our own personal standards; we as nurses are meant to do what we know is ethical.

I read a quote recently that stated, “I’m a nurse, what’s your super power?” (n.d.) While it is funny to compare us as nurses to superheroes because we do so much for the greater good of our communities, it is important to remember that we are human, and while we may think we have all the answers, that is not always the case. We cannot see into the future, and we cannot always predict the correct outcome of our decisions, especially those that require us to make a call without having a lot of time to think it over. The code of ethics for nurses is put into place to safeguard our patients, their families, and ourselves from facing the harsh reality that can come from making a biased, rash decision that may be based on emotion rather than facts or science. And 9 times out of 10 opinions on what is right and what is just will differ from person to person.

When a Nurse accepts a position as a Nurse, they not only vow to uphold the Nursing Code of Ethics, but they also agree to uphold a Code of Ethics and Standards that their employer has in place. As a Nurse at a Franciscan Hospital, my thoughts, views, and traditions can differ greatly from the social norms of today’s society. Nurses in the Franciscan Tradition not only must uphold the Code of Ethics set forth by the ANA, but they must also uphold The Franciscan Values due to being employed by a faith-based, mission-driven organization. (

Being a part of a Franciscan Organization means that you dedicate your life to serving others in a way that exhibits compassionate care, joyful service, respect for life, fidelity to mission, and Christian Stewardship. ( A Franciscan Hospital carries forth Christ’s healing ministry and strengthens the Catholic health care mission, which also means they align themselves with the Catholic beliefs on Abortion, Birth Control, and End of Life. Working at a Franciscan Hospital means that you also vow to align yourself with and uphold those views while working as an employee at a Franciscan Hospital. It is not uncommon for ethical dilemmas to present themselves in matters concerning those beliefs and the health of the patient. But just like with the Nursing Code of Ethics, it is always important to remember professionalism and to leave your personal thoughts, beliefs, and opinions out of the situation, and to stand behind the Franciscan Traditions and Values.

What one person considers ethical may be completely different from a person approaching a situation with a different point of view or background. Nurses are expected to exhibit the use of ethical concepts in their performance of care for their patients. Ethical concepts include providing care that is good, correct, and, most importantly, rational for the patient. Patients need to be given the chance to express their freedom of choice in receiving services and determining how they want to be cared for. An ethical nurses absolutely must recognize that they are obligated to provide individual-based care that will help the patient reach and maintain their optimal level of health and well-being. Ethical nursing care is always based upon rational science and decision-making, not on the emotions or personal beliefs of the nurse themselves. (Nursing Ethics.)


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Assignment Details

Ethical dilemmas are those where there is neither an easy answer nor a decision that is absolutely the right one. Healthcare professionals must deal with these challenges based on their training and knowledge of ethical principles and decision-making. Choose an ethical dilemma from the list below and answer the questions that follow. Use your knowledge and understanding of what you have already learned from Unit 1 and 2 lessons and the textbook reading assignments.

Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing Research Paper

Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing Research Paper

Genetic testing and home test kits

Physician-assisted death

Artificial intelligence and clinical decision making

Organ transplantation and artificial organs

Note: If you would like to choose a dilemma other than one on the list, please consult with your instructor and obtain permission.

Describe the issue and why and how it poses an ethical dilemma for healthcare providers and healthcare organizations.

What ethical principle(s) would be applicable to the dilemma?

Describe the ethical decision-making steps used to come to an ethical decision. With whom would a healthcare professional consult in coming to a decision?

How are your personal values challenged? What would be a personal bias or conflict of interest in resolving this dilemma?

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