Nursing Ethics: Helping Out on the Unit vs. Teaching Nursing Students Crucial Skills

By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor

scalesJust as no two hospital units are exactly alike, rarely are two ethical conflicts exactly alike. There are too many variables, too many human and situational differences. This month’s Ethical Issues column, “Teaching Crucial Knowledge vs. Helping Out on the Unit,” explores potential ethical and practical issues faced by a clinical instructor who must balance the duty to teach essential skills to nursing students against the staff’s need for help in meeting patient care needs.

Will there be an easy, cut-and-dried answer? Probably not. In the course of their analysis of a hypothetical scenario, the authors make the following point:

Because new situations arise all the time, and every situation varies in its ethically relevant aspects, rigid rules often cannot guide ethical action. Instead, analytic skills and transparent negotiation are crucial for resolving conflicts between values as they arise in day-to-day interaction—and for supporting the solutions we choose.

While people skills may be as important as abstract ethical analysis in dealing with real world situations, determining which ethical principles or priorities are coming into conflict may provide us with a certain measure of clarity in our approach. The authors frame the conflict described in the article in the following way:

[…]

September 23rd, 2015|Ethics, Nursing, nursing perspective, safe staffing, students|0 Comments

A Nursing Conference Focused on Quality and Safety, and a Big ‘What If?’

2015ANAQualityConferenceBanner600x100
By Maureen ‘Shawn’ Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

“What would quality in hospitals look like if health care institutions were as single-minded about serving clients as the Disney organization?”

Last week I attended the 2015 American Nurses Association Quality Conference in Orlando. The conference, which had its origins in the annual National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators (NDNQI) conference, drew close to 1,000 attendees. Here’s a quick overview of hot topics and the keynote speech by the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, plus a note on an issue crucial to health care quality that I wish I’d heard more about during the conference.

Most sessions presented quality improvement (QI) projects and many were well done. There were some topics I hadn’t seen covered all that much, such as reducing the discomfort of needlesticks, enhancing postop bowel recovery, and promoting sleep. But projects aimed at preventing central line infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), and pressure ulcers ruled the sessions. These of course are among the hospital-associated conditions that might cause a hospital to be financially penalized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The ANA also had a couple of sessions on preventing CAUTIs by means of a tool it developed in the Partnership for Patients initiative of the CMS to reduce health care–associated infections.

The keynote by Robert McDonald, the fairly new Secretary of the Department of […]

Staffing and Long Shifts – Some Recent Coverage

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

by patchy patch, via flickr by patchy patch, via flickr

The March issue will soon be published and be featured on the home page of our Web site, so before the February issue is relegated to the archive section, I want to highlight two articles. Knowing that some readers of this blog may not be regular readers of AJN (I know, hard to believe), I wanted to bring them to your attention.

I don’t usually blog about my own editorials, but the February editorial (“It All Comes Back to Staffing”) has apparently resonated with many readers. I’ve received several letters and a request to reprint it from a state nursing association. (The editorial includes a portion of a poignant letter I received from a reader in response to an editorial I’d written for the December 2013 issue, “Straight Talk About Nursing,” in which I discussed missed care—that is, the nursing care that we don’t get to but is often at the heart of individualizing care.)

The February editorial ties in with a special report, “Can a Nurse Be Worked to Death?”, by Roxanne Nelson, which addresses the recent death of a nurse who was killed in a car accident while driving home after a 12-hour shift. It’s a compelling report and I urge all […]

A Report from the ANA Safe Staffing Conference

Katheren Koehn, MA, RN, AJN editorial board member and executive director of MNORN (Minnesota Organization of Registered Nurses), reports from last week’s ANA conference on staffing held in Washington, DC.

staffiing Click image for source page at ANA staffing site.

The ANA Safe Staffing Conference ended on Saturday. There were almost 700 registered nurses from all over the country in attendance—nurses in management, direct care, and leadership—all gathered to try to discover new strategies for how to solve the most challenging issue in nursing: safe staffing.

Not a new issue. This has long been the most challenging issue for nursing. Teresa Stone, editor of Poems from the Heart of Nursing: Selected Poems from the American Journal of Nursing, told me that, as she was searching the archives of 113 years of AJN issues for her book, she found that staffing issues were a frequent theme. Today, as the work of nurses has become more complex, the need to create sustainable solutions to ensuring appropriate staffing is our most critical issue—hence the ANA Staffing Conference.

The body of evidence supporting the idea that appropriate nurse staffing makes a difference in saving patients’ lives has grown exponentially in the past 20 years. This evidence—paired with the new federal financial incentives for hospitals to improve patient outcomes and experiences—makes it seem inevitable that increasing nurse staffing would be the next step. But […]

Telling Patients About Staffing Levels: Transparency or Self-Interest?

ethicsscreenshotIt’s a very busy Monday. Because of chronic difficulty in recruiting staff, the unit has only three-fourths of its RN positions filled. In addition, Mary Evans, an experienced nurse who always helps less experienced staff with their patients while carrying a full caseload herself, has called in sick.

Linda Smith is 68 years old and two days post-op from hip replacement surgery. As you enter her room, 45 minutes after she first requested pain medication, you can sense her irritation—but worse than that, you can see from the grimace on her face and her guarded movements that she’s in pain. After several days of good nursing care, you’ve let her down, and you consider telling her about the staff shortage. But you wonder: Is it right to disclose today’s short staffing to Ms. Smith?

The situation above is an ethical conundrum because values are in conflict. On one hand, transparency is good and patients have a right to know about administrative factors affecting their care. On the other hand, care should stay focused on a patient’s problems, not the nurse’s.

As the article excerpt above suggests, nurse staffing is a contentious issue having to do with both patient safety and job satisfaction for nurses. We’ve covered this issue many times in the past, most recently in a blog post that got quite a few comments back in January.

But should a nurse ever tell a patient about inadequate staffing? This is […]

May 9th, 2013|Ethics, Nursing, safe staffing|6 Comments