Ethical Dilemmas Across Care Settings

Ethical dilemmas are common in healthcare settings where providers experience various conflicting choices in their therapeutic interactions with patients and their family members. The issues occur depending on the work settings and the type of services each professional offer to specific clients. Regardless of the differences in the moral challenges, health providers are expected to uphold a high level of safety and quality during the caregiving process. Besides, they should respect their autonomy and informed decision-making. Although emergency medicine physicians might work in the same hospital settings as nurses, they experience ethical dilemmas differently when making critical decisions in the continuum of care.

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Emergency medicine physicians work in a demanding health care setting to resuscitate the dying and stabilize the sick, among other scenarios that require immediate decision-making. In most cases, these providers lack adequate time to consult with patients or their families before giving the much-needed service to save lives. They rely mostly on their clinical judgment when caring for critical patients because such individuals might be unable to decide about their care (Erbay, 2014). For example, a 50-year-old man suffers a severe heart attack at home and is rushed to the emergency department for treatment. The role of the physician is to stabilize the person and prevent imminent death. In such situations, the provider does not have the chance to consult with the patient or members of their family before beginning treatment.

Conversely, nurses work closely with patients and their families to provide care and monitor the sick. Unlike emergency medicine physicians, they have adequate time to consult and discuss the type of treatment and nature of services offered with the client and loved ones. They also play a significant role in educating and advising care recipients and family members regarding the medical condition and possible treatment alternatives to allow adequate time to make a decision. They advance considerable emotional support to individuals affected by the illness. They work with healthy populations to offer preventive services and wellness (Smolowitz et al., 2015). Therefore, nursing professionals work in the same environment as emergency medicine physicians and face ethical dilemmas but differ in how they navigate the challenges emerging from moral realities.

Emergency medicine physicians and nurses encounter ethical dilemmas in their interactions with their clients and their family members during their treatment. For instance, the providers might experience a challenge when caring for the 50-year-old man who suffers a heart attack and is at the risk of death unless an immediate response is initiated. The medical professionals will be responsible for restoring the health of the patient and increasing the chances of complete recovery. They will work with the client and family to decide the best treatment plan. However, they might differ regarding the choice of treatment to offer.

Although the emergency medicine physician and the nurse will serve the same client, they will experience differing ethical dilemmas associated with the case. The emergency medicine physician will face difficulty regarding the type of treatment to prescribe immediately with minimal consultation with the patient and family (House et al., 2015). However, they risk the challenge of providing a treatment that the client might have opposed if competent enough to make a decision. For example, the physician might recommend medications to support blood circulation while the client would have preferred to avoid such treatment and be allowed to die of a heart attack. However, the provider will experience the challenge long after advancing the procedure to save a life because they mostly decide on the care under considerable pressure.

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Regarding the same case, a nurse might face an entirely different ethical dilemma because of the sufficient time to consult and collaborate with the patient and family members. For example, the client has been resuscitated but cannot breathe on his own. Hence, he should be placed on life support as he continues to receive treatment. However, the family might disagree with such an approach for various reasons, including culture or religious beliefs. Therefore, the nurse is conflicted whether to agree with the family’s wishes or provide the necessary treatment to save a life (Dwarswaard & van de Bovenkamp, 2015). The professional plays a different role from the emergency medicine physician, including educating and advising the client and family members regarding the necessity of life support.

Although the emergency medicine physician and nurse work in the same environment and provide care to the same patients at different stages of the treatment process, they face diverse ethical dilemmas. The variance is based on their roles in the continuum of care. The physician provides emergency care for individuals with life-threatening conditions, such as heart attack. On the other hand, nurses offer care and support to patients in various medical settings, including during admission. Since their ethical situations differ, a healthcare professional should address emerging circumstances, depending on the nature and the type of care required.



Dwarswaard, J., & van de Bovenkamp, H. (2015). Self-management support: A qualitative study of ethical dilemmas experienced by nurses. Patient Education and Counseling98(9), 1131-1136.

Erbay, H. (2014). Some ethical issues in prehospital emergency medicine. Turkish Journal of Emergency Medicine14(4), 193-198.

House, J. B., Theyyunni, N., Barnosky, A. R., Fuhrel-Forbis, A., Seeyave, D. M., Ambs, D., … & Santen, S. A. (2015). Understanding ethical dilemmas in the emergency department: Views from medical students’ essays. The Journal of Emergency Medicine48(4), 492-498.

Smolowitz, J., Speakman, E., Wojnar, D., Whelan, E. M., Ulrich, S., Hayes, C., & Wood, L. (2015). Role of the registered nurse in primary health care: Meeting health care needs in the 21st century. Nursing Outlook63(2), 130-136.

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