Tips from BESD: Use scenarios as a basis for ethics education

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, May 14, 2010

Here's an example of an ethical scenario to use as a basis for ethical discussions:

Cynthia is a newly-licensed RN. She has been working with her preceptor on a busy med-surg unit in a large community hospital. Cynthia admires her preceptor, who is an experienced nurse with an excellent work record. Cynthia notes that when her preceptor distributes medications, she rarely confirms her patients' identities prior to giving them their medications. When asked about this, the preceptor replies: "I know all of these patients. I can't waste my time confirming who they are."

The next day, the preceptor is observing Cynthia distribute medications. Cynthia prepares to confirm the patients' identities by checking their wristbands and asking them to tell her their names, according to hospital policy and procedure. Her preceptor becomes impatient, telling Cynthia, "Just give them their medicine!" What should Cynthia do?

There are many issues for discussion here. Here are some questions for orientees to ponder:

  • Should Cynthia continue to verify patients' identities? Why or why not?
  • If Cynthia continues to verify patients' identities, her preceptor will probably become annoyed. Can this affect their working relationship? Can this influence Cynthia's performance evaluation?
  • Should Cynthia follow her preceptor's direction? Why or why not?
  • Should Cynthia report her preceptor's behavior to the nurse manager? Why or why not? What are some consequences for reporting the behavior? What are some consequences for failing to report the behavior?

Editor's note: This excerpt was adapted from the May 2010 issue of Briefings on Evidence-Based Staff Development. Discover all the benefits of subscribing to Briefings on Evidence-Based Staff Development.

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