How to Resolve Ethical Issues in Nursing

When we hear the word nursing, the only thing that comes to our mind is taking care of people. In order to take care of patients, nurses are first trained to communicate with them. Some patients are incredibly naive and listen to whatever the nurse commands them. On the other hand, nurses also have to handle patients with low patience. Thus, nursing comes with ethical responsibilities. Every decision a nurse makes can seriously impact a patient’s life. That’s why the NHS FPX 4000 Assessment 3 is such a big deal—it’s all about prepping nurses to handle those challenging ethical situations they’ll face on the job.

In this article, we will provide tips and examples on resolving ethical dilemmas in healthcare. After reading this guide, you can easily tackle tricky situations like a pro. Without wasting your time, let’s dig in. 

Understanding Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing

Before starting our journey to tackle situations like a pro in healthcare, it’s essential to have some knowledge about ethical dilemmas. If you are already aware of this, you can skip it and directly jump to the tips and solutions section. 

What Are Ethical Dilemmas in Nursing?

Ethical dilemmas in nursing are tricky situations in which you have to choose between two conflicting moral principles. They generally feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard surface, where no matter what you do, something feels off. When you are making decisions about patient care, these dilemmas can pop up from nowhere. Instead, it would be about patient care, dealing with your colleagues on some particular case, or trying to follow the hospital rules. 

For example, you might have to decide whether to keep a patient’s health information private or share it to help them get better care. Or you could be faced with a tough call about what to do when a patient’s wishes conflict with what’s medically best for them. These situations test your ethical compass and are considered highly challenging.

Common Ethical Issues in Nursing

It’s easy to understand ethical issues through examples. So here are some common ethical issues with examples. 

Patient Confidentiality

One of the most common ethical issues nurses face in their careers is keeping some of their information or their healthcare from family members. Imagine you have to keep a secret about a patient’s health, but sharing it could actually help them get better care. Tricky, right? 

Informed Consent

Informed consent is usually essential in critical situations, such as surgeries. Nurses must ensure that the patient knows exactly what’s going on and is aware of the risks and benefits of the procedure. Please take it as getting your friend’s green signal before posting a story on Instagram. 

End-of-Life Care

The most challenging ethical decision in any nurse career is whether to continue treatment or leave. This decision includes handling situations outside and inside the operating room. 

Allocation of Resources

Imagine there are only so many resources (like ICU beds or ventilators), and you have to figure out how to use them moderately. As nurses, it’s up to you to use the space wisely without disrupting the ongoing work. This is crucial as beds and other equipment have to be available for the new patients.  

Examples of Ethical Dilemmas in Healthcare

Here are some real-life examples that are against nursing ethics

Case of DNR Orders

You’re a nurse, and you have a patient with a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order. This means if their heart stops, you don’t try to restart it. But then, the patient’s family shows up, begging you to do everything you can to save their loved one. You’re stuck in this emotional tug-of-war, trying to respect the patient’s wishes while also dealing with the family’s pleas. But on the other hand, you have to follow the rules. 

Conflict of Interest

Suppose you find out that one of your nursing colleagues is getting perks from a pharmaceutical company to push certain meds. They’re getting all these excellent incentives, maybe even some extra cash or gifts. This is a significant ethical no-no because their recommendations might not be in the best interest of the patients but are somewhat influenced by these perks. This situation messes with the trust patients have in their healthcare providers, and you’re left wondering how to deal with it.

The Four Main Ethical Principles in Nursing

There are four major ethical principles in nursing: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. Let’s examine what each of these four principles means. 


It is all about letting patients make their own decisions about their health. To understand it more clearly, imagine you and your best friend are deciding between ordering a Chinese platter and pizza. Even if you think pizza is the best option right now, you still respect your friend’s opinion and go with the Chinese platter. In nursing, it’s the same. You let patients make their own healthcare decisions, even if you might disagree. 


This principle always works for the wellness of the patients. In beneficence, a nurse better knows what steps to take for the health of a patient; every move you make as a nurse should be to help your patient feel better and be healthier.


It is a fancy way of saying, “Don’t cause harm.” In nursing, it means you make sure everything you do is safe for your patient. You wouldn’t prank your friends in a way that could actually hurt them, right? Same idea here.


Although this is an essential principle in ethical decision-making, some nurses still don’t follow it. A nurse must treat all patients equally. Providing the same level of care no matter what or who they are is what is called ethical nursing. 


Here is a detailed guide on Important Considerations in Nursing Ethics to get insights more on nursing ethics. 

Applying Ethical Principles in Nursing Practice

Autonomy: Obtain informed consent and respect patients’ choices.

Beneficence: Provide compassionate care that promotes the well-being of patients.

Non-maleficence: Follow safety protocols to prevent harm.

Justice: Advocate for fair treatment of all patients, regardless of their background.

Check out the assessment sample paper that will help you ace your exams on applying ethical principles.


How to Resolve Ethical Issues in Nursing

Resolving an ethical issue in nursing requires a lot of stamina. As we discussed above, there are some scenarios where it is nearly impossible for a nurse to execute any plan. Keeping some essential factors in mind, they have to take initial and crucial steps for ethical decision-making. 

  1. Identify the Ethical Issue: Clearly define the problem and the conflicting principles involved.
  2. Gather Information: Collect all relevant facts and viewpoints from patients, families, and healthcare team members.
  3. Evaluate the Options: Consider the potential outcomes of different actions based on ethical principles.
  4. Maintain Professional Integrity: Uphold ethical standards even in challenging situations.
  5. Make a Decision: Choose the best course of action that aligns with ethical standards.
  6. Implement and Reflect: Act on the decision and reflect on the outcomes to improve future ethical decision-making.
  7. Seek Support: Reach out to supervisors, colleagues, or ethics committees when facing difficult choices.

How to Resolve Ethical Dilemmas in Healthcare

When you encounter a tricky ethical situation in healthcare, there are a few key moves to ensure you’re doing the right thing.

  • First off, teamwork is essential. Talk it out with your crew—doctors, nurses, social workers, and anyone else involved. Getting different viewpoints helps you see the whole picture and find the best solution.
  • Next, use ethics committees. Think of them as your go-to advisors when things get tough. They’re there to help you figure out the right thing to do in complicated situations.
  • Lastly, keep learning. Stay updated with ongoing ethical training. It’s like keeping your skills sharp so you’re always ready for whatever comes your way. Continuous learning ensures you know the latest best practices and guidelines.

Ethical Principles and Decision-Making Models

When nurses face ethical dilemmas, a few critical approaches and steps can help them make the best decisions.

The Utilitarian Approach

Choose actions that bring the most good to the most people. This happens by examining the overall impact of your decisions and aiming for the best possible results for everyone involved.

The Deontological Approach

Make decisions based on rules and duties, regardless of the consequences. This involves following a set of moral principles or guidelines to ensure that your actions are ethically sound.

The Virtue Ethics Approach

Make choices that reflect your best moral qualities and demonstrate integrity and compassion. Highlight the importance of your character and virtues. 

What Role Do Ethics Committees Play in Nursing?

Ethics committees support and guide healthcare professionals when they face complex ethical dilemmas. They help ensure that decisions are based on solid ethical reasoning. When nurses are unsure about the right course of action, these committees can provide clarity and advice. They bring together experts from various fields to discuss the issue, offering different perspectives and solutions. By consulting an ethics committee, nurses can make well-informed decisions that align with ethical standards and provide the best care for their patients.


Ethical issues need to be resolved in nursing. It is essential for providing top-notch patient care. By understanding and using ethical principles, making intelligent decisions, and asking for help when needed, nurses can handle tough ethical dilemmas and keep their profession trustworthy. The NHS FPX 4000 Assessment 3 helps nurses prepare to face these challenges confidently and competently.


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