Ethics in Staffing Issues

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“The stated goals of the profession of nursing are demonstrably ethical: to protect the patient from harm, to provide care that prevents complications, and to maintain a healing psychological environment for patients and families (Corley, 2002).” The nursing staffing issues posed upon nurses today can create a state of moral distress. Moral distress is common “when there are insufficient numbers of staff, inadequately trained staff, and organizational policies and procedures that make it difficult, or even impossible, for nurses to meet the needs of patients and their families (Corley, 2002). When faced with these situations, nurses not only have to keep in mind their roles and responsibility to meet the needs of the patients and families, they also have to balance this with the ethical and legal ramifications involved that may conflict with their own viewpoints, beliefs, and feelings. The nurse can be faced with the knowledge that there is an imbalance in the amount of patients and patient workload to the amount of nurses on hand to provide care. This unsafe nurse-to-patient ratio poses a quandary, a state of moral distress for the nurse. “Patient safety is an essential and vital component of quality care (Ballard, 2003).” We as nurses are taught to do no harm, but often we are put in circumstances that seem to be no-win for either the nurse or the patient. Patient safety, quality care, and positive patient outcomes as nurse’s aims are challenged when the nurse is faced with these dilemmas. “Nurse staffing levels and the organizational environment for nursing practice are independently predictive of patient outcomes (Aiken, 2002).” If the nurse were to leave in this instance, the nurse could be charged with abandonment. Employers could even follow with “charges of insubordination and prompt disciplinary action” (Garvis, 2003). If the nurse were to stay, the nurse would be faced with an overwhelming patient load that would leave the patient potentially...
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