Ethics in Nursing Practice, Values and Decision Making
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Nurses work with a wide range of patients, and each patient presents their own economic, social and cultural differences. While nurses work to provide care for the sick, injured and dying, they are always working within the boundaries of their professional codes of ethics. The nursing code of ethics is more than laws and common etiquette, and upholding the code of ethics is understood and agreed upon by people in the nursing profession. The two kinds of ethical theories discussed most in nursing are consequentialist and nonconsequentialist theories. By examining these two theories, nurses are able to ...view middle of the document...
Ethics is a fundamental philosophy of nursing; therefore, nurses must constantly work to subscribe to and understand the ethical theories present in today’s society. Simply defined, ethics deals with what is morally right, and nurses work in environments which challenge their personal morals, or ethics, regularly. The code of ethics for nurses is more than an obligation to a patient; moreover, the code of ethics should be an expression of a nurses own understanding of his or her commitment to society (Nursing World, 2012).
To have a better understanding of their commitment to society, nurses must be familiar with consequentialist and nonconsequentialist ethical theories. The consequentialist (or utilitarianism) theory holds that “the question of right and wrong is fundamentally a matter of producing good consequences and avoiding evil consequences” (Fry, Veatch & Taylor, 2011). The nonconsequentialist (or deontological) theory contends that “right and wrong are determined by more than the likely consequences of an action” (Shaw, 2011).
Justice and care are always hot topics of discussion when debating ethical theory. Justice deals with fairness and treating patients equally; therefore, justice may be defined by some people as a nurse’s duty to provide equal health care services to every patient. On the other side is care which is all about connecting and building a relationship with a patient. Connecting allows a nurse to better understand the needs of his or her patients. It is common for care to be viewed by some people as the need for nurses to take a more holistic approach when treating their patients. If a nurse uses only one of these two ethical perspectives, when making decisions about a patient, some ethical dilemmas might never be resolved.
An example of ethical theory applied to nursing is when a nurse takes care of a patient who may be sick, injured or dying. Justice would argue that the patient should get the same amount of time and resources as any other patient the nurse sees. According to Hudson (2005), justice means nurses must be committed to the promotion of the health, welfare and safety of all people, and also to the equal distribution of these services. Care ethics would suggests the opposite of justice and argue that different people will require different treatment strategies. For this reason, a nurse must get to know his or her patients. As the nurse and patient relationship evolves, a harmonious relationship develops. Care ethics would lean toward the relationship between the nurse and her patient as the key to successful treatment options.
The bigger issue here is not about the elements of justice or care; moreover, the challenge of justice and care is how to prevent these principles from being at odds with each other. Nurses should always strive to produce the greatest amount of good; furthermore, nurses should always work for fairness and equality of care. A nurse should never have to choose justice or care...