The empowerment of nurses and patients are inextricably linked. To recognize empowerment, we must take ownership of our lives and recognize that we have control over our actions and emotions (Nathaniel & Burkhardt, 2014). As nurses, our empowerment allows us to advocate for our patients while they achieve their own empowerment.
When making decisions with our patients, many different factors should be considered. Some people consider cultural awareness to be important. To assist our patients, we must understand their culture and be culturally sensitive when providing nursing care. What do they like to eat in order to promote healthy and adequate nutrition? Do these cultures believe in alternative medicine and, as a result, disagree with modern medicine or our current nursing practices?
This week saw a recent example of a patient situation in which the patient posed an ethical quandary for our hospital. Our nursing department made contact with our ethics department and referred this patient’s case to them. A patient with a urinary tract infection was admitted. The patient was alert and oriented at the start. This patient also had a life-threatening illness that she chose not to treat, as well as a chronic health problem. The hospitalist physician consulted with behavioral health to determine whether or not the patient possessed decision-making capacity. The ability to make a specific decision at that time is referred to as decision making capacity (Cooper, 2010). The infectious disease physician wanted to treat the chronic issue; her attending physician did not want to treat because she made the decision to not undergo treatment while she was alert and oriented. Because of her severe illness, the patient was unable to respond to questions coherently.
Even if I thought this patient was making a bad decision, I can’t make the call as a nurse. The patient had decided not to receive treatment for her chronic disease. It is her choice, and her trust in me at the time was to follow through on her decisions. The patient was given antibiotics for a urinary tract infection, and her mental status returned to normal. Our behavioral health team determined that she was competent to make her own decisions, but she still chose not to receive treatment. There should be no restrictions on patient empowerment. The nurse should always advocate for a non-biased plan of care for their patients.
Nurses should have effective communication skills in order to empower themselves in nursing and in their personal lives, as well as to assist the patients we care for on a daily basis (Burkhardt & Nathaniel, 2014). Understanding how everyone can be completely different in every way possible can be difficult at times.