What to Do When You Are Faced With An Ethical Dilemma


It’s a question commonly asked during a job interview because it’s a situation that is not uncommon in the medical profession. How have you handled an ethical dilemma in the past?

Understanding the Ethical Dilemma

There may come a time when you’re faced with a situation that goes against your ethics, morals or values. It might be something you notice being done by your colleagues or managers, or it might be something you know about your patient. These situations force you to choose a position that you might feel doesn’t have a good answer. When you’re asked this question during an interview, your hiring manager is interested in your morals and values. They want to know if what you stand for will align with their company and how you’ll handle an ethical situation when it’s presented to you.

Steps to Take When You Have to Make A Decision

When you’re faced with a situation, you must decide between being honest and dishonest or doing what you know is right or what you know to be wrong. For instance, you may have seen a colleague speaking inappropriately to a patient or actions that border on sexual harassment. You may feel as if you’re stuck between the rest of the staff who might be angry if you address the situation and your ethics and morals that recognize this behavior is wrong. What can you do?

Your first step is to determine if there is a conflict of values or professional responsibilities between yourself and your co-worker or a patient. It helps to identify what those values and principles are so that you can define your limitations and how far you’re willing to take them.

The second step is to realize that your ethics and morals are not a luxury. They are limitations and boundaries you place on yourself and your family members and underpin nearly every choice you make. When you’re asked to do something at odds with your value system, it triggers an uneasy feeling. Although some believe ethical dilemmas may not have a single right or wrong answer, the decision is ultimately one you have to live with.

Typically, these happen when there’s tension between two principles, such as being honest with your boss and loyalty to a co-worker or friend. But inevitably, the dilemma was likely not a result of your actions, but the results of someone else’s. When you’re stuck in a position of trying to determine what you should and shouldn’t do, it’s important to keep what’s right and what’s wrong front and center.

Steer clear of making the easy decision, because while it might be easy in the immediate situation, it will be a decision you must live with for the rest of your life. A disagreement with a company decision, lying to your manager, or reporting illegal activity are all dilemmas that may cause you distress. As you contemplate the decision you want to make, consider whether or not you would be proud of the decision or would feel comfortable if the decision was made public.

While the resolution may ultimately be up to you, you should also seek wise counsel from a trusted friend, relative, or professional who can offer strategies and solutions you may not have considered. Sometimes, in the middle of a difficult situation, the ability to think creatively is negatively impacted. By drawing in others who do not have a stake in the situation, you may receive creative solutions that preserve your ethics and are a win-win situation for all.

We Are Looking for a Few Good Nurses

Ethical dilemmas may face people from all walks of life, but in the medical profession, they may lead to life or death decisions. At Capital, we support our professional staff in their career development and decision making. Contact our professional recruiters today and discover what it’s like to work in a supportive environment.

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