Assignment: Ethical Decision Making Competency of Advanced Practice Nurses

Assignment: Ethical Decision Making Competency of Advanced Practice Nurses

Assignment: Ethical Decision Making Competency of Advanced Practice Nurses

Phases of Core Competency Development, 333 Evaluation of the Ethical Decision Making Competency, 349 Barriers to Ethical Practice and Potential Solutions, 350

Barriers Internal to the Advanced Practice Nurse, 350 lnterprofessional Barriers, 351 Patient-Provider Barriers, 351 Organizational and Environmental Barriers, 352

Conclusion, 354

Characteristics of Ethical Dilemmas

In this chapter, the terms ethics and morality or morals are used interchangeably (see Beauchamp & Childress, 2009, for a discussion of the distinctions between these terms). A problem becomes an ethical or moral problem when issues of core values or fundamental obligations are present. An ethical or moral dilemma occurs when obligations require or appear to require that a person adopt two (or more) alternative actions, but the person cannot carry out all the required alternatives. The agent experiences tension because the moral obligations resulting from the dilemma create differing and opposing demands (Beauchamp & Childress, 2009; Purtilo & Doherty, 2011).

In some moral dilemmas, the agent must choose between equally unacceptable alternatives; that is, both may have elements that are morally unsatisfactory. For example, based on her evaluation, a family nurse practitioner (FNP) may suspect that a patient is a victim of domestic violence, although the patient denies it. The FNP is faced with two options that are both ethically troubling-connect the patient with existing social services, possibly straining the family and jeopardizing the FNP-patient relationship, or avoid intervention and potentially allow the violence to continue. As described by Silva and Ludwick (2002), honoring the FNP’s desire to prevent harm (the principle of beneficence) justifies reporting the suspicion, whereas respect for the patient’s autonomy justifies the opposite course of action.

Jameton (1984, 1993) has distinguished two additional types of moral problems from the classic moral dilemma, which he termed moral uncertainty and moral distress. In situations of moral uncertainty, the nurse experiences unease and questions the right course of action. In moral distress, nurses believe that they know the ethically appropriate action but feel constrained from carrying out that action because of institutional obstacles (e.g., lack of time or supervisory support, physician power, institutional policies, legal constraints).


Noting that nurses and others often take varied actions in response to moral distress, Varcoe and colleagues (2012) have proposed a revision to Jameton’s definition: “moral distress is the experience of being seriously compromised as a moral agent in practicing in accordance with accepted professional values and standards. It is a relational experience shaped by multiple contexts, including the socio-political and cultural context of the workplace environment” (p. 60).

The phenomenon of moral distress has received increasing national and international attention in nursing and medical literature. Studies have reported that moral dis- tress is significantly related to unit-level ethical climate and to health care professionals’ decisions to leave clinical practice (Corley, Minick, Elswick, et al., 2005; Epstein & Hamric, 2009; Hamric, Borchers, & Epstein, 2012; Hamric, Davis, & Childress, 2006; Pauly, Varcoe, Storch, et al., 2009; Schluter, Winch, Hozhauser, et al., 2008; Varcoe, Pauly, Webster, & Storch, 2012). APNs work to decrease the incidence of moral uncertainty and moral distress for themselves and their colleagues through education, empowerment, and problem solving.

Although the scope and nature of moral problems experienced by nurses and, more specifically APNs, reflect the varied clinical settings in which they practice, three general themes emerge when ethical issues in nursing practice are examined. These are problems with communication, the presence of interdisciplinary conflict, and nurses’ difficulties with managing multiple commitments and obligations.

Communication Problems

The first theme encountered in many ethical dilemmas is the erosion of open and honest communication. Clear communication is an essential prerequisite for informed and responsible decision making. Some ethical disputes reflect inadequate communication rather than a difference in values (Hamric & Blackball, 2007; Ulrich, 2012). The APN’s communication skills are applied in several arenas. Within the health care team, discussions are most effective when members are accountable for presenting information in a precise and succinct manner. In patient encounters, disagreements between the patient and a family

C HAP T E R 13 Ethical Decision Making

member or within the family can be rooted in faulty com- munication, which then leads to ethical conflict. The skill of listening is just as crucial in effective communication as having proficient verbal skills. Listening involves recognizing and appreciating various perspectives and showing respect to individuals with differing ideas. To listen well is to allow others the necessary time to form and present their thoughts and ideas.

Understanding the language used in ethical deliberations (e.g., terms such as beneficence, autonomy, and utilitarian justice) helps the APN frame the concern. This can help those involved to see the components of the ethical problem rather than be mired in their own emotional responses. When ethical dilemmas arise, effective communication is the first key to negotiating and facilitating a resolution. Jameson (2003) has noted that the long history of conflict between certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and anesthesiologists influences how these providers communicate in practice settings.

In interviews with members of both groups, she found that some transcended role-based conflict whereas others became mired in it, particularly in the emotions around perceived threats to role fulfillment. She recommended enhancing communication through focus on the common goal of patient care, rather than on the conflicting opinions about supervision and autonomous practice. In other words, focusing on shared values rather than the values in conflict can promote effective communication.

Interdisciplinary Conflict

The second theme encountered is that most ethical dilemmas that occur in the health care setting are multidisciplinary in nature. Issues such as refusal of treatment, end-of-life decision making, cost containment, and confidentiality all have interprofessional elements interwoven in the dilemmas, so an interprofessional approach is necessary for successful resolution of the issue. Health care professionals bring varied viewpoints and perspectives into discussions of ethical issues (Hamric & Blackball, 2007; Piers, Azoulay, Ricou, et al., 2011; Shannon, Mitchell, & Cain, 2002).

These differing positions can lead to creative and collaborative decision making or to a breakdown in communication and lack of problem solving. Thus, an interdisciplinary theme is prevalent in the presentation and resolution of ethical problems.

For example, a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is writing discharge orders for an older woman who is terminally ill with heart failure. The plan of care, agreed on by the inter- professional team, patient, and family, is to continue oral medications but discontinue IV inotropic support and all other aggressive measures. Just prior to discharge, the social worker informs the CNS that medical coverage for. NURS 6565 Synthesis in Advanced Practice Care of Complex Patients in Primary Care Settings Essay Assignment Papers and Exam Questions and Answers.