Ethical & Cultural Issues in Medical & Surgical Nursing


Medical surgical nursing involves providing care to adults of all ages. Nurses need to provide culturally sensitive care to patients from a variety of cultural backgrounds. While doing this, they must adhere to ethical principles of providing nursing care.

Significance of Culture in Nursing

  • Being aware of or inquiring about a person's culture or religion with respect to medical care helps the nurse avoid causing cultural pain to his patient in addition to what already ails him or her.

Ethical Principles in Nursing Care

  • The medical surgical nurse respects the right of the patient to make decisions about his or her care whether it is safe or not,and this is patient autonomy. The nurse does no harm to and acts in the best interest of the patient, which is beneficence. Maleficence occurs when the nurse causes pain in order to minimize harm and increase positive health outcomes for the patient. Justice involves providing equal care to every patient regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

Religious Issues

  • Religion may be part of a person's culture. The nurse may encounter issues related to diet, prayer rituals, death rituals or refusal of medical procedures like blood transfusions based on religion.

Communication Issues

  • Certain cultures value modesty, and females are only allowed to talk to and be cared for by female healthcare providers. Other cultures deem eye contact as rude or disrespectful. Conflict may arise when the cultural communication pattern of a patient is ignored.

Family Organization Issues

  • Some cultures require a certain member of the family to communicate with the healthcare providers in behalf of the sick individual. The patient and his or her family may feel offended if this cultural practice is not taken into consideration by the medical surgical nurse.

Ethical Issues

  • These occur when the medical surgical nurse is put in a position where she has to ignore the principles surrounding provision of ethical care. Examples are unsafe nurse-to-patient ratio, nonresponse by a physician, inappropriate medication orders and refusal of lifesaving treatment by a competent adult patient.

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