Are you an ethics champion?
Access to affordable good quality care remains a challenge for many, and it is not uncommon for patients to receive too little of the right kind of treatment or too much of the wrong treatment. Perhaps never before has it been so important for nurses to be skilled in recognizing and responding to everyday ethical challenges.
editors-note
EDITOR'S NOTE: Carol Taylor, PhD, RN, is a senior clinical scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., a professor of nursing and the former director of the university's Center for Clinical Bioethics. Taylor directs an innovative ethics curriculum grounded in a rich notion of moral agency for advanced practice nurses. She lectures internationally and writes on various issues in healthcare ethics and serves as an ethics consultant to systems and professional organizations.
Delve deeper into top ethics issues
Learn More
Ensure that every patient and family member is treated with compassion and respect
Not everyone we encounter in our busy practices is what we might describe as a polite human being, who is grateful for our care. In fact, many are ill because of poor lifestyle choices, act out — sometimes violently — or seek drugs or other inappropriate treatment.

As professional caregivers, nurses are not expected to be OK with being treated disrespectfully by anyone, but we are expected to treat every person we encounter with respect and to ensure that our entire team does the same. In some practices where inappropriate comments are the rule, this requires moral courage.

No one wants to work with a “goody two-shoes,” but it is not unrealistic to establish a culture that prizes zero tolerance for disrespectful speech and behavior for all.
Support patients and their surrogates as they make healthcare decisions
Provision 1.4 of the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses describes nurses’ duties to respect and promote patients’ right to self-determination.
According to the code of ethics, patients have the moral and legal right to be given accurate, complete and understandable information in a manner that facilitates an informed decision; and to be assisted with weighing the benefits, burdens and available options in their treatment, including the option of no treatment.
Resolve conflict about the plan of care
All is well when there is agreement about treatment goals and the best plan of care to achieve these goals. Not infrequently, members of the professional caregiving team, the patient and the patient’s family disagree about the appropriate goal (recovery, stabilization of functioning or preparation for a comfortable and dignified death) and the best means to achieve this goal. In these instances someone needs to step up and voice the need to address the conflict.
Often the biggest challenge is simply getting major players into the same room at the same time to review the goals and plan of care. A family conference may settle the conflict. If the conflict persists, an ethics consult can be arranged.

In some instances a palliative care consult may help resolve the conflict. Each practice situation is different and the resources available to you may be unique to your setting. Become familiar with how to access the resources you need to resolve ethical conflicts.
circle-arrow
Study the ANA’s Code of Ethics for Nurses.
circle-arrow
Identify and use the ethics resources in your hospital or facility, including ethics consultants and ethics committees.
circle-arrow
Watch for educational opportunities, such as the National Nursing Ethics Conference.
circle-arrowcircle-arrow
Learn more about moral distress. Check out the Moral Distress Education Project.
circle-arrow
You also may want to advance your formal education in healthcare ethics. Sigma Theta Tau International offers a healthcare ethics certification program.
If you are serious about becoming an ethics champion, here are a few recommendations:
OnCourse-Web-Icons_136
Questions for Reflection
checkmark
What priority do you assign to talking with patients and families/surrogates about their preferences for treatment goals and the plan of care? What percentage of your clinical time do you devote to this?
checkmark
How often do you experience discomfort/moral distress because you believe the patient’s treatment goals and plan of care are not appropriate?
checkmark
What is your capacity for providing the knowledge and support patients and their surrogates need to make informed decisions consistent with their beliefs and values?
checkmark
What strategies for clarifying treatment goals and related interventions and ensuring that the entire team is on board have you found to be most helpful?
GettyImages-513818992OnCourse-Web-Icons_92
Provision 1.4 of the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses describes nurses’ duties to respect and promote patients’ right to self-determination.
The code also states that the importance of carefully considered decisions regarding resuscitation status, withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining therapies, foregoing nutrition and hydration, palliative care and advance directives is widely recognized. Nurses assist patients as necessary with these decisions.
What’s important isn’t merely that patients or their surrogates make choices, but rather that they make choices that will secure their interests. The object of all clinical decision-making is primarily to secure the health, well-being or dignified end of life for the patient, and to do this in a manner that respects the integrity of all participants in the decision-making process. This often requires more support for the patient and family than simply listing alternatives. Nurses are uniquely positioned to help patients understand how these choices are likely to play out over time.
Good nurses and ethics champions are competent, compassionate, collaborative advocates for patients and families, and are remembered for being and making the critical difference in patients' experiences. They operate within the following three core responsibilities on behalf of everyone for whom they care. Ethics champions:
#1
#2
#3
inspira-phone-2
Join us for our RN Job Fairs – Wednesday, 2/22 from 3-7p 2950 College Drive, Suite 1G • Vineland, NJ RSVP: 856-641-7768 or 3/1 from 3-7p 52 West Red Bank Ave. • Woodbury, NJ Medical Arts Bldg., Suite 12 RSVP: 856-686-5272
Inspira2
You’re Invited to our Nursing Job Fair
Inspira Health Network will be hosting two Job Fairs for experienced Nurses (BSN preferred) to join our team. Candidates must possess current NJ RN licensure and American Heart Association CPR.
Wednesday, February 22 from 3pm to 7pm 2950 College Drive, Suite 1G • Vineland, NJ RSVP: 856-641-7768
Wednesday, March 1 from 3pm to 7pm 52 West Red Bank Ave. • Woodbury, NJ Medical Arts Bldg., Suite 12 RSVP: 856-686-5272
inspira-logo
Apply directly online
For more information about Inspira’s opportunities, please enter your name and email.
Advertise with Nurse.com
You are if you promote 3 core responsibilities
article-down-arrow
BACK TO TOP
TOP-ARROW
More inside this guide
bottom-arro
© 2017 OnCourse Learning Corp. All rights reserved
facebooktwitterLinkedinyoutube
Contact Nurse.com
20225 Water Tower Blvd. Brookfield, WI 53045
Advertise with Nurse.com
google-pluspinterest
C_Taylor2
By Carol Taylor
PhD, RN Ethics expert and educator
share-dots-shadowleft-arrowright-arrowright-arrow-3
hamburguer-icon-shadow
MENU
toc-image-nurse-1X
Contents
HOME
arrow-TOC
arrow-TOC
Helm an ethics team
ThinkstockPhotos-200253002-001
RNs can successfully lead interprofessional ethics committees with the right tools.
ThinkstockPhotos-73772520
Address your moral distress
Liaisons help nurses feel supported in voicing and discussing ethical concerns.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-514630172
When the end of life is near
Nurses must see to patients’ both physical and psychological needs during this difficult time.
arrow-TOC
GettyImages-476613252
Call out unsafe practices
Speaking out if a colleague is not operating by ethical standards can be intimidating, but is necessary.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-638754448
8 key assumptions
Nurse leaders draft a blueprint for a healthcare culture that is more supportive of nursing ethics.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-504457820
Who's your go-to person?
RNs share whom they turn to for support when faced with an ethical dilemma at work.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-529580279
How to make ethical decisions
What a patient wants should be of paramount importance when a decision needs to be made.
arrow-TOC
GettyImages-519860340
Make every day count
A nurse helps a dying patient spend as much time as possible with his young daughter.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-517989376
Know the code
Being familiar with the Code of Ethics can help nurses prepare for tough ethical dilemmas that are bound to happen.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-509476848
Choose your words wisely
A patient tapes his medical employees making inappropriate comments about him while he is sedated.
arrow-TOC
GettyImages-598948640
Live by the code
Base your practice on strong moral principles.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-498189922
LGBTQ CE series debuts
Learn about the health needs of the LGBTQ community with a new series of courses.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-525970104
6 key ethical principles
Discover how fidelity, beneficence, autonomy and other principles come into play in ethics.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-495774324
Are you an ethics champion?
Operate within three core responsibilities to make a critical difference in patients’ lives.
arrow-TOC
image7
CE catalog
From bioethics to palliative care, several education modules provide important ethics lessons for nurses.
arrow-TOC
COVER_ThinkstockPhotos-534028837
Detect human trafficking
The first steps in patient care for potential victims is identification and assessment.
arrow-TOC
legal-small
Keep it confidential
Nurses who work in the community are obligated to follow confidentiality and privacy policies.
arrow-TOC
ThinkstockPhotos-170083531
Protect whistleblowers
The ANA Code of Ethics says nurses have a responsibility to assist whistleblowers.
arrow-TOC
GettyImages-531055006
A beautiful death
Nurse learns valuable lessons about end-of-life care and experiencing a beautiful death.
arrow-TOC
Nurse-logo
Act now
Thank you!
x