Nurses are uniquely positioned to serve as leaders in healthcare ethics as the field continues to change and evolve. They are intricately involved in all aspects of patient care, including care coordination, recommendations for plans of care, provision of life-sustaining interventions, and patient education, among other practices. Registered nurses have been identified repeatedly through Gallup polls as the most honest professionals and regarded as having the highest ethical standards (Windland-Brown, Lachman, & Swanson, 2015). While various nursing consultative services have emerged over the past several decades in specialties such as intravenous therapy and wound care, healthcare ethics is another area that would benefit from nurses' varied skill sets and expertise.
This handbook is the first of its kind—focused entirely on a nurse-led ethics consultative service. It is divided into two parts:
HEALTHCARE ETHICS IN THEORY
To understand ethics as it applies to healthcare, it's important to first familiarize yourself with the basic theories within the study of ethics. Chapter 1 covers a general overview of these theories. Chapter 2 provides a closer look at healthcare ethics—from how healthcare ethics evolved since the time of Hippocrates to the basic principles that govern nurses as they work to solve ethical dilemmas. Chapter 3 presents some of the landmark cases that helped shape modern healthcare ethics as we know it today.
HEALTHCARE ETHICS IN PRACTICE
After you've gained solid foundational knowledge about healthcare ethics from the first three chapters, how do you use these core principles to lead healthcare ethics committees? Chapter 4 details a step-by-step process for nurse-led ethics consultations. Chapter 5 focuses on some of the most ethically challenging issues in the healthcare industry today. And Chapter 6 presents case studies that explore ethical dilemmas that occur in everyday practice. These can serve as either independent or team-based exercises.