Acute and Chronic Care
Acute and Chronic Care
In the acute care setting, APNs struggle with dilemmas involving pain management, end-of-life decision making, advance directives, assisted suicide, and medical errors (Shannon, Foglia, Hardy, & Gallagher; 2009). Rajput and Bekes (2002) identified ethical issues faced by hospital- based physicians, including obtaining informed consent, establishing a patient’s competence to make decisions, maintaining confidentiality, and transmitting health information electronically. APNs in acute care settings may experience similar ethical dilemmas.
Recent studies of moral distress have revealed that feeling pressured to continue aggressive treatments that respondents thought were not in the patients’ best interest or in situations in which the patient was dying, working with physicians or nurses who were not fully competent, giving false hope to patients and families, poor team communication, and lack of provider continuity were all issues that engendered moral distress (Hamric & Blackball, 2007; Hamric, Borchers, & Epstein, 2012).Advanced Practice Nurse Assignment Papers.
APNs bring a distinct perspective to collaborative decision making and often find themselves bridging communication between the medical team and patient or family. For example, the neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) is responsible for the day-to-day medical manage- ment of the critically ill neonate and may be the first provider to respond in emergency situations (Juretschke, 2001). The NNP establishes a trusting relationship with the family and becomes aware of the values, beliefs, and attitudes that shape the family’s decisions. Thus, the NNP has insight into the perspectives of the health care team and family. This “in-the-middle” position, however, can be accompanied by moral distress (Hamric, 2001), particularly when the team’s treatment decision carried out by the NNP is not congruent with the NNP’s professional judgment or values.
Botwinski (2010) conducted a needs assessment ofNNPs and found that most had not received formal ethics content in their education and desired more education on the management of end-of-life situations, such as delivery room resuscitation of a child on the edge of viability. Knowing the best interests of the infant and balancing those obligations to the infant with the emotional, cognitive, financial, and moral concerns that face the family struggling with a critically ill neonate is a complex undertaking. Care must be guided by an NNP and health care team who understand the ethical principles and decision making related to issues confronted in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) practice.
Acute and Chronic Care
Ongoing cost containment pressures in the health care sect0r have significantly changed the traditional practice of delivering health care. Goals of reduced expenditures and services and increased efficiency, although important, may compete with enhanced quality oflife for patients and improved treatment and care, creating tension between providers and administrators, particularly in managed care systems in which providers find that their clinical decisions are subject to outside review before they can be reimbursed.
Ulrich and associates (2006) surveyed NPs and physician assistants to identify their ethical concerns in relation to cost containment efforts, including managed care. They found that 72% of respondents reported ethical concerns related to limited access to appropriate care and more than 50% reported concerns related to the quality of care. An earlier study of 254 NPs revealed that 80% of the sample perceived that to help patients, it was sometimes necessary to bend managed care guidelines to provide appropriate care (Ulrich, Soeken, & Miller, 2003).
Most respondents in this study reported being moderately to extremely ethically concerned with managed care; more than 50% said that they were concerned that business decisions took priority over patient welfare and more than 75% stated that their primary obligation was shifting from the patient to the insurance plan. Although the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services fHHSJ, 2011) may help with these concerns to some extent, the ethical tensions that underlie cost containment pressures and the business model orientation of health care delivery may continue.Advanced Practice Nurse Assignment Papers.
An example of how cost containment goals can create conflict is a situation in which a NP wishes to order a computed tomography (CT) scan to evaluate a patient complaining of abdominal pain. The NP knows that the patient has a history of diverticulosis resulting in abscess formation and the current pres·entation with fever and abdominal tenderness justifies this testing; however, the insurance approval process takes a minimum of 24 hours. By sending the patient to the emergency room, the test can be done more quickly, but the patient will also face a long wait and a high copay if she does not require subsequent hospital admission.
Limiting access to CT scans is based on containing costs and avoiding unnecessary testing, which are two laudable goals.Advanced Practice Nurse Assignment Papers. However, in this situation, the lengthy approval process means that the NP does not have needed information to direct the treatment plan and alleviate the patient’s suffering in a timely manner. The use of the emergency room to obtain essential clinical information is a greater burden on the patient and may ultimately prove more expensive to the system.
Technologic advances, such as the rapidly expanding field of genetics, are also challenging APNs (Caulfield, 2012; Harris, Winship, & Spriggs, 2005; Horner, 2004; Pullman & Hodgkinson, 2006). As Hopldnson and Mackay (2002) have noted, although the potential impact of mapping the human genome is immense, the challenge of how to translate genetic data rapidly into improvements in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease remains.
To counsel patients effectively on the risks and benefits of genetic testing, APNs need to stay current in this rapidly changing field (a helpful resource for this and other issues is the text by Steinbock, Arras, and London, 2012), As one example, genetic testing poses a unique challenge to the informed consent process. Patients may feel pressured by family members to undergo or refuse testing, and may require intensive counseling to under- stand the complex implications of such testing; APNs are also involved in post-test counseling, which raises ethical concerns regarding the disclosure of test results to other family members (Eden, 2006). Because genetic information is crucially linked to the concepts of privacy and confidentiality, and the availability of this information is increasing, it is inevitable that APNs will encounter legal issues and ethical dilemmas related to the use of genetic data.
APNs may engage in research as principal investigators, co-investigators, or data collectors for clinical studies and trials. In addition, leading quality improvement (QI) initiatives is a key expectation of the DNP-prepared APN (AACN, 2006). Ethical issues abound in clinical research, including recruiting and retaining patients in studies, protecting vulnerable populations from undue risk, and ensuring informed consent, fair access to research, and study subjects’ privacy. As APNs move into QI and research initiatives, they may experience the conflict between the clinician role, in which the focus is on the best interests of an individual patient, and that of the researcher, in which the focus is on ensuring the integrity of the study (Edwards & Chalmers, 2002).Advanced Practice Nurse Assignment Papers.
Acute and Chronic Care
Access to Resources and Issues of Justice
Issues of access to and distribution of resources create powerful dilemmas for APNs, many of whom care for underserved populations. Issues of social justice and equitable access to resources present formidable challenges in clinical practice. Trotochard (2006) noted that a growing number of uninsured individuals lack access to routine health care; they experience worse outcomes from acute and chronic diseases and face higher mortality rates than those with insurance.
McWilliams and colleagues (2007) found that previously uninsured Medicare beneficiaries require significantly more hospitalizations and office visits when compared with those with similar health problems who, prior to Medicare eligibility, had private insurance.Advanced Practice Nurse Assignment Papers. The PPACA, when fully enacted, will help improve access to quality care and decrease the incidence of these dilem- mas. However, as noted, the escalating costs of health care represent ethical challenges to providers and systems alike, regardless of the population’s insurance status.
The allocation of scarce health care resources also creates ethical conflicts for providers; regardless of pay- ment mechanisms, there are insufficient resources to meet all societal needs (Bodenheimer & Grumbach, 2012; Trotochard, 2006). Scarcity of resources is more severe in developing areas of the world and justice issues of fair and equitable distribution of health care services present serious ethical dilemmas for nurses in these regions (Harrowing & Mill, 2010). A further international issue is the “brain drain” of nurses and other health professionals who leave underdeveloped countries to take jobs in developed countries (Chaguturu & Vallabhaneni, 2007; Dwyer, 2007). NURS 6565 Synthesis in Advanced Practice Care of Complex Patients in Primary Care Settings Essay Assignment Papers and Exam Questions and Answers.
Allocation issues have been described in the area of organ transplantation but dilemmas related to scarce resources also arise in regard to daily decision maldng, for example, with a CNS guiding the assignment of patients in a staffing shortage, or an FNP finding that a specialty consultation for a patient is not available for several months. Whether in community or acute care settings, APNs must, on a daily basis, balance their obligation to provide holistic, evidence-based care with the necessity to contain costs and the reality that some patients will not receive needed health care. As Bodenheimer and Grumbach (2012) have noted, “Perhaps no tension within the U.S. health care system is as far from reaching a satis- factory equilibrium as the achievement of a basic level of fairness in the distribution of health care services and the burden of paying for those services” (p. 215).
One of the value-added components that APNs bring to any practice setting is creativity and a wide range of patient management strategies, which are crucial in caring for large numbers of uninsured and underinsured persons. It is not uncommon for an APN to encounter a patient who has been forced to stop taking certain medications for financial reasons. Although many practitioners pre- scribe generic forms of medications, if available, some patients still have to pay an exorbitant price for their medications.
For example, an acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) managing an underinsured patient with chronic lung disease and heart failure discovers that the patient is unable to pay for all the medications prescribed and has elected to forego the diuretic and an angiotens in converting enzyme inhibitor (ACE-I). Because the ACNP knows that ACE-Is are associated with reduced morbidity and mortality rates, and that diuretics control symptoms and prevent rehospitalization, these changes are discouraged. Instead, the ACNP helps the patient make more suitable choices when altering medications, such as dosing some medications on an every-other-day basis. The ACNP has helped the patient cope with the situation but must face the morally unsettling fact that this plan of care is medically inferior.
Finally, as APNs broaden their perspectives to encompass population health and increased policy activities, both essential competencies of the DNP-prepared APN (AACN, 2006), they will experience the tension between caring for the individual patient and the larger population (Emanuel, 2002). Caregivers are increasingly being asked to incorporate population-based cost considerations into individualized clinical decision making (Bodenheimer & Grumbach, 2012). Population-based considerations present a challenge to the moral agency of APNs, who have been educated to privilege the individual clinical decision.
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