As a nurse you will undoubtedly encounter ethics-based decisions and sometimes dilemmas as you care for patients. In nursing school you will learn the legalities of such issues as Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders, domestic and family situations, and other scenarios where you will act in accordance with the law and hospital practice standards.
But at the same time, because you are dealing with human beings in sometimes emotionally charged situations, your own opinions and point of view on where the line of ethics is drawn, will be ever present.
I have always considered this a gift and a responsibility rather than as a professional burden. The issue of professional and personal ethics is a constant reminder that you are a critically thinking, skilled and educated professional along with a feeling, thinking and sometimes conflicted human being. This is one of the reasons why nursing is such a truly special profession – the multifaceted connection you form with patients and their families.
With such a complex issue as ethics comes the line that is invariably drawn in each situation and the ongoing debates surrounding it. Newly minted aspects of health care are contributing to that debate. In the technology realm, there is the issue of patient records and lots of other private patient information going electronic. This is, of course, to create a more efficient work flow for health care providers, reduce medical errors from incorrect chart info and help hospitals cut costs. We can only wait and see if such large digital databases of private information have any patient confidentiality consequences.
Some health systems have also started doing genetic testing studies in an attempt to “predict” a person’s risks for health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and even Alzheimer’s disease. The idea is that if patients know what they are at risk for, they can make targeted, appropriate changes to their lifestyle.
While this may be the ultimate form of preventative medicine, it does raise an ethics question. If this type of information was transmitted to insurance companies, would premiums be affected by the potential for costly medical conditions that have not even occurred yet? Nurses, nursing new graduates and nurses will face issues like these and others as health care technology progresses and the boundaries of ethics change with them.