Impaired Patient Autonomy in Nursing Practice

The autonomy of the patients is an essential value in nursing ethics. Despite this fact, it can be unintentionally neglected in some cases. It is especially true for nurses who continuously need to rush from one patient to the other. Moreover, sometimes the named right of all treated people is affected because of the contradiction between multiple nursing moral principles. This essay aims to examine the possible solutions to the problem of time-management for nurses and the ethical responses to possible conflicts.

The constant rush raises the question of the ethical principles corresponding to nursery as work given a lack of time is known to be of low quality. There is no room for low-quality assistance in the healthcare sector because of the possible detrimental consequences (Wesley, 2016). Achieving perfection is vital in the medical occupation because health and life are the most valuable entities for anyone. Hence, it is essential to consider ways to maintain efficiency in the given circumstances.

The first conflict that can arise is related with the medical attendants’ struggle to accomplish their work faster and save time which causes the restriction of the patients’ autonomy and violation of their rights. Nurses might be confident in their assumptions of what is required to be done and decide for the treated individual in order to reduce the time spent on each treated individual (Wesley, 2016). Even though they have only positive intentions, they can be mistaken and, as a result, act unethically. To tackle this problem, the medical worker needs to know and implement psychological principles effectively (Molina-Mula et al., 2017). For example, they might talk in a friendly way to the extrovert subjects to build trustful relationships with them and prevent loss of autonomy. Alternatively, introverted people can be treated unobtrusively by avoiding personal topics that alienate patients who find it difficult to trust others. Such consideration of the personality and individual approach results in a higher level of healthcare quality, providing positive feedback and solutions for autonomy loss.

Another problem in this setting is the failure to obtain effectively the informed consent. There might be one of the following reasons for this problem involved. First, the nurse could not deliver the message fully and in detail. Second, they did not succeed in understanding the patient’s mood. Third, the patient is reluctant for medical care. Medical professionals are ethically restricted to force the patients to sign informed consent because it harms the affected party’s rights (Greaney & O’Mathuna, 2017). Hence, they should explain the treatment processes highlighting the benefits and persuade them if needed. Also, it might be helpful to delegate the duties across many nurses as this measure would allow them to concentrate easier and provide a higher performance rate (Molina-Mula et al., 2017). To conclude, the problem of obtaining informed consent should be addressed by psychological knowledge implementation and effecting work distribution.

Nurses in a hurry might also face the problem of proper protection of a patient’s personal information. In the digital age, the data can be both stored securely and leak-off easily. The privacy assurance requires a high level of attention from the working nurse, who also has many other variables to keep in mind (Molina-Mula et al., 2017). The solution to this problem could correspond to the enforcement of cybersecurity as well as specialized training for nurses as the best way of learning experience. This consideration can also address the other problems of protecting patients’ rights, which can disrupt the treatment process and structure (Molina-Mula et al., 2017). As a result, nurses are required to keep attentiveness at work even in stressful situations to preserve the intactness of moral rights.

There are multiple instances when caretakers are put in a challenging position, which forces them to choose between the ethical principles. The most straightforward example is when the patient deliberately refuses to take medicine or overcome any treatment. Such situations contradict the nursing value of non-maleficence, which means, at any cost, not harm people (Greaney & O’Mathuna, 2017). While doing nothing is not a direct danger for the patients, it may result in severe consequences for the organism. Hence, nurses are to choose whether to abstain from helping or violate human rights and provide the necessary treatment. In these circumstances, they should not infringe on the freedoms of autonomy and try to convince the subjects to change their minds.

It might be complicated to refrain from the ideas of forcing the patients to sign an informed consent form and try to save their lives. Some nurses may even consider themselves superior and believe that they know what is better for the subjects (Wesley, 2016). As they have more experience in working with disorders and value life more than anyone, they might be infuriated by someone who does not carefully consider the importance of treatment and withdraws it. In this view, even the nurses’ positive intentions might be unwelcome, which poses a difficult question to nurse morality.

Although they are concerned about the health and benefits for the patient, they can be wrong in their own assumptions. It might be useful to think about this problem in the scope uniqueness of each person (Greaney & O’Mathuna, 2017). Here the autonomy principles are supported by the value of human dignity, which presumes the unconditional respect to every individual and their decisions (Wesley, 2016). Nurses should refer to each self equally, which in this case implies the necessity to give the freedom of choice and regard it; nevertheless, it contradicts their beliefs. As one patient agrees on the conduction of necessary treatment procedures, the other might wish to stay away from them for the broad range of reasons evident only for themselves (Greaney & O’Mathuna, 2017). If a nurse violates the principles of autonomy, it might bring unwanted consequences such as patient’s fury and deterioration of their situation because of the unnecessary struggle for their rights.

In such a way, the only choice for the medical professional is to inform such patients about the possible consequences of every decision they make. The nurses should come not as prisoners dictating the rules of life and how to sustain it. Instead, they can bring the choice to stay in the world for a little longer and enjoy it. They can study various psychological techniques which would help them to convince the patients. They can call for sanity, for intelligence, for love, and for a family to manipulate the patients’ decision but leave the final decision to them.

To conclude, the autonomy of the patients is violated for several reasons. First, the lack of time can make nurses ignore the importance of autonomy by assuming their correctness without asking. Second, some patients might abstain from treatment, which can challenge nurse to choose between different ethical principles. In both cases, the autonomy of the patients should be sustained, and the independent judgment respected.


Greaney, A., & O’Mathuna, D. P. (2017). Patient autonomy in nursing and healthcare contexts. In P. A. Scott (Ed.), Key Concepts and Issues in Nursing Ethics (pp. 83-99). Springer.

Molina-Mula, J., Peter, E., Gallo-Estrada, J., & Perello-Campaner, C. (2017). Instrumentalisation of the health system: An examination of the impact on nursing practice and patient autonomy. Nursing Inquiry, 25(1), 1-8.

Wesley, C. E. (2016). “Sign here”: Nursing value and the process of informed consent. Plastic Surgical Nursing, 36(4), 182-186.

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