Ethical & moral dilemmas faced by nurses

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Nursing can be a highly stressful and challenging profession. states that ethical issues have always surrounded the role of a nurse and as a part of their profession nurses should be involved in the decision making process that surrounds these issues. Ethical and moral issues surrounding confidentiality, alternative care, use of restraints and refusal of care are some of the more common problems a nurse might face.


Confidentiality of patient information is a major ethical issue surrounding the careers of nurses. Nurses are often faced with what types of information should be recorded on a patient's chart where several other people might have access to it. According to nurses should only record information that is directly related to the patient's care and treatment. Nurses are also often placed in a situation where they need to discuss a patient's condition. states that medical staff should make every attempt to have these patient discussions in private rooms.

Use of Restraints

Restraining patients is another issue that can bring about ethical conflicts. Restraints can keep patients from harming themselves but also restrict their basic freedoms. states that nurses must evaluate the outcome of using restraints versus what could happen if the restraints were not to be used. Nurses should also discuss restraints with family members and carers and search out other alternatives to restraints where possible.

Refusal of Care

Refusal of care can come into conflict with the role of a nurse. The main reason a nurse may refuse care to a patient is to protect her own personal safety. states that instances of care refusal did rise since AIDS emerged as a major health problem. However, they go on to say that the number has sharply declined over the last 10 years from 75 per cent to 20 per cent.

Alternative Medicines

The On Line Journal of Issues in Nursing states there are several ethical issues surrounding the use of alternative medicines and complimentary therapies. With the increase in alternative medicines nurses are faced with the issue of how safe many of these medicines are. They cite vitamins as an example. Vitamins are classed as a dietary supplement and therefore are not subject to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.

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