Ethical Theories of Nursing

Topics: Ethics, Nursing, Deontological ethics Pages: 7 (1955 words) Published: October 7, 2014
When a person meets the unfortunate circumstance of being admitted to a hospital for an illness they are depending on healthcare personnel to have their best interest in mind and make them better. When people think of who it is taking care of them and making them better they specifically think of Doctors and Nurses. As Doctors and more specifically Registered Nurses it is their duty to have a client’s best interest in mind and always act in their benefit. This raises the question, what guides Nurses to maintain this mindset of always putting the patient first? The answer is their ethical duty, meaning every nurse is guided by ethical theories and principles which help guide them as a patient advocate. It is these ethics that make a nurse so valuable to clients and ultimately makes a nurse the client’s best advocate. In this paper the core ethical theories and principles will be discussed and how exactly this helps RN’s be the best possible advocate and what benefits the clients themselves derive from these ethical theories. In order to properly understand the ethical theories of nursing one must first know what the core ethical principles and theories in nursing are. The ethical principles of nursing are Autonomy, Beneficence, Fidelity, Informed consent, Integrity, Justice, Nonmaleficence, Paternalism, Veracity, as well as Privacy and confidentiality. Some ethical theories that influence nursing practice are Consequentialism, Deontology, Ethical Relativism, Utilitarianism theory, Teleology, Virtue ethics, and Justice and equity. To a layperson some of these words may make sense and others may not. In order to better understand how these theories and principles shape the practice of nursing you must better understand what they mean. A brief description of some of these terms will be given before their influence on nurses is discussed. Autonomy refers to the patients’ own rights to make decisions about their healthcare, health, and lives without the interference from healthcare personnel such as the physician, the nurse, or other team members. This means the nurse would have to resist the urge to interject his or her own feelings, values or beliefs onto the patient. This principle was made more evident with the passing of the Patient Self Determination Act by Congress in 1990 (“Ethical Principles,” n.d., para. 2). Beneficence is very simple, it is referring to always doing what is beneficial to the patient and therefore in their best interest (Silva & Ludwick, 1999). This principle also involves taking actions to help benefit others and prevent both physical and mental harm of the patient. Fidelity is synonymous with faithfulness and is therefore achieved by remaining loyal, fair, and truthful to patient and encompassing the idea of being a patient advocate. An example of fidelity would be keeping a promise to a patient of coming back to check on them even if they become slammed with a heavy workload. Informed consent is directly related to autonomy in the fact that it allows the patient to make an informed decision about their treatment (Daly, 2009). This means that accurate information must be provided to the patient in order to make an informed decision. Three elements involved in informed consent are Informed, Competent, and Voluntary. What this means is the patient has all the accurate information, they are in a stable and competent mindset to make the decision, and that they are voluntarily making the decision. Justice is simply referring to fairness and equality. It is applied to healthcare by providing equitable access to nursing care. Nonmaleficence literally translates to “do no harm” and is a concept that originated from the Hippocratic Oath. Nurses apply this principle by not causing injury, being either physical, psychological, emotiona, or financial (“Ethical Principles,” n.d., para. 16). Paternalism is a negative principle of nursing and is implied when a nurse does not respect the patients’ right to...
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