If there is anything that the situation in Utah has taught us, it is that nurses are constantly up against difficult, ethically ambiguous situations. The nurse in that situation dealt with it heroically, but how can every nurse deal with the difficult situations that come our way?
There are no easy answers, of course. How many of us would have drawn the blood on the unconscious patient, intimidated by the cop?
We would like to think not many, but it is hard to know what you would do in that situation. Here are some tips if you find yourself up against a difficult situation that you are struggling to deal with.
Policy is first and foremost the way to know what to do. It is what saved the Utah nurse because she knew the rules of consent for her facility …. and constitutionally.
Knowing what is allowed under certain circumstances will go a long way toward getting a handle on difficult situations. You will know what is right by your facility and can fall back on that should the need arise …. which it inevitably will.
Chain of command
When policy fails to move the situation along , the next course of action is to move up the chain of command. You are not alone, and you need management to help you deal with these problems.
If the situation you are dealing with gets out of hand, move to the charge nurse. No help there? Move to the manager.
You need to keep going up the ladder — even as far as the director of nursing — to protect your patient’s rights. The chain of command exists for this reason, and it is up to nurses to use it to get help.
Act on what’s right
So, policies haven’t helped and the chain of command has ignored you. What do you do now?
You do what you know in your heart to be right. This is the foundation of ethics.
Sometimes ethics can lead to heartbreak. How many movies have we watched where standing up for what you believe in makes the bullies punch you harder?
Essentially, the Utah incident was a case of a nurse who stood up for her ethics. She wasn’t afraid to do what was ethically right, regardless of the consequences to herself.
When the time comes, do what is right. This is the best way to deal with a difficult situation. Just be prepared for what may come after. It may not be positive.