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How to Resolve Conflicts and Ethical Principles of Nursing

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Standardized ethical codes help people face difficult situations and make the best possible decisions. The ethical codes of medicine exist because the decisions doctors and nurses must make are too complicated for people to resolve individually. A nurse whose personal moral code conflicts with the rules of ethical medical practice must still follow the profession's standardized ethics. She must use her own judgment to balance the six principles of ethical nursing in the way that best suits the situation.

Evaluate the issue from the perspective of beneficence, or doing good. It is your responsibility as a nurse to do the most good for the patient, which means that it is your responsibility to take action when you see the need, rather than to do nothing.

Evaluate the issue from the perspective of nonmaleficence, or doing no harm. This is the cardinal ethical oath for medical practitioners. In a situation where it is not possible to do good or all options do both good and harm, choose the option that does the least harm.

Respect the autonomy of the people involved in the issue. When your moral principles or personal beliefs are at odds with the morals or wishes of a patient, it is the patient's right to make decisions impacting his own life. As a nurse, you are ethically bound to honor your patient's right to autonomy.

Tell patients, other nurses and doctors the truth. This ethical principle is called veracity.

Keep your promises to patients and other healthcare professionals. This principle is called fidelity.

Act to violate these ethical practices only when justice demands it. The ethical principle of justice gives nurses the right to take unusual courses of action when extenuating circumstances make accepted practice unfair and demand unusual alternatives.


Stephanie Mitchell is a professional writer who has authored websites and articles for real estate agents, self-help coaches and casting directors. Mitchell also regularly edits websites, business correspondence, resumes and full-length manuscripts. She graduated from Syracuse University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater.