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J Clin Nurs. 2018 Oct;27(19-20):3446-3461. doi: 10.1111/jocn.14542. Epub 2018 Jul 23.

Ethical dilemmas in nursing: An integrative review.

Author information

1
Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO, USA.
2
University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA.

Abstract

AIMS:

To identify themes and gaps in the literature to stimulate researchers to develop strategies to guide decision-making among clinical nurses faced with ethical dilemmas.

BACKGROUND:

The concept of ethical dilemmas has been well explored in nursing because of the frequency of ethical dilemmas in practice and the toll these dilemmas can take on nurses. Although ethical dilemmas are prevalent in nursing practice, frequently leading to moral distress, there is little guidance in the literature to help nurses resolve them.

DESIGN:

This study is an integrative review of published research from 2000 to 2017.

METHODS:

The keywords ethics, ethical dilemmas and nurs* were searched in CINAHL, PubMed, OVID and SCOPUS. Exclusion criteria were sources not available in English, not in acute care, and without an available abstract. Seventy-two studies were screened; 35 were retained. Garrard's matrix was utilised to analyse and synthesise the studies.

RESULTS:

Ethical dilemmas arose from end-of-life issues, conflict with physicians or families, patient privacy concerns and organisational constraints. Differences were found in study location, and yet international research confirms that ethical dilemmas are universally prevalent and must be addressed globally to protect patients and nurses.

CONCLUSIONS:

This review offers an analysis of the available evidence regarding ethical dilemmas in acute care, identifying themes, limitations and gaps in the literature. The gaps in quantitative intervention work, US paucity of research, and lack of comparisons across practice settings/nursing roles must be addressed. Further exploration is warranted in the relationship between ethical dilemmas and moral distress, the significance patient physical appearance plays on nurse determination of futility, and strategies for pain management and honesty.

RELEVANCE TO NURSING PRACTICE:

Understanding and addressing gaps in research is essential to develop strategies to help nurses resolve ethical dilemmas and to avoid moral distress and burnout.

KEYWORDS:

nursing ethics; professional burnout; terminal care

PMID:
29791762
DOI:
10.1111/jocn.14542
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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