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COVID-19 and Nursing Ethics

Mursing Mursing (New) New

Hi all,

I'm an ED trained RN, BSN, CEN, with experience in trauma level III EDs. I got burned out, spent some time in a psych hospital, and working through PTSD, depression, anxiety, and agoraphobia. We were planning to move to California, knowing family and the sun would be good for my mental health, but with COVID in Seattle, I am feeling the ethical dilemma of staying and re-applying at my last job or other area EDs.

Ethically, I know as a trained RN, my duty is to community and to minimize suffering. In working on caring for myself, I have been talking to recruiters about Observation units, clinics, Psych, and other areas. I am much better than a few months ago, but worry about being back in the intensity of the ED especially during these times. Nonetheless...I feel the draw.

MotoMonkey, BSN, RN

Specializes in ED. Has 2 years experience.

Nursing code of ethics also addresses the fact that as nurses we need to care for ourselves and maintain self care in order to provide the best care possible to our patients. You need to do what is best for your own physical and mental health.

Serhilda, ADN, RN

Specializes in Cardiac Telemetry, ICU.

If you want to come back to the ED, come back because you want to join in on the chaos a pandemic brings, not because you feel a moral obligation.

There are plenty of elective procedures that are being called off and those nurses are being used elsewhere, such as an extra set of hands in the ED. We're fine. Just do what makes you happy.

malamud69, ADN, BSN, EMT-B

Specializes in Emergency. Has 11 years experience.

I’m Having a similar ethical/moral dilemma. Currently working in the emergency department for the last several years and my hospital is now getting hit by this thing. I am the primary caregiver for my elderly parents and I made the decision to not work during this acute period.
I cannot take the chance of being quarantined/isolated/any of the above because my parents will literally have nobody to help care for them and then what? While I am not worried about my own health in particular because I’ve been dealing with blood guts disease for the last 10 years in the emergency department the cardiac unit etc. I do not think I could live with myself if I brought something home that could potentialy kill my parents. I want to be in this fight and I’ve never ever felt the weight of a decision as I have with this one. I realize we all have families and many of my coworkers have children and parents they are dealing with...I could find no criteria with which to be satisfied with a decision in either direction and at this moment I’m choosing my parents. I live day today with a ball of anxiety inside my gut thinking I’ve made the wrong decision thinking I’m not helping in this battle I vacillate from feeling like a coward to a hero to my family. Fortunately my coworkers are supportive

NurseBettie, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med/surg, orthopedics, neuroscience.

I am grappling with the same call to serve. I've taken a year off to recuperate (living on savings) from 14 years of night shift and my husband's death and wasn't planning on returning to work until fall. I certainly feel the ethical obligation, but I'm still having work nightmares and don't feel I'm ready to serve yet, especially in a time of such chaos. I've decided to reassess the situation in a month - 4 more weeks of rest and counseling for me, and there will be plenty of burned-out nurses that will need covered by then. But sometimes I have to turn off the news, especially when they start talking about the strain on healthcare workers.

I'm having the same dilemma as many of you. My parents both have respiratory issues (COPD and aspergillosis). My grandparents, who I help take care of, are obviously elderly and more susceptible to this virus. I'm also have many health problems (heart problems), and I worry about how the virus would affect me if I got it. I feel like if I keep working, it's not a matter of if I get it but when. We don't even have enough PPE in a lot of places to protect ourselves. I'm going to keep working for now, but it's a dilemma I struggle with every single day at this point. I feel like I'm playing Russian roulette with my family's lives every time I go to work.


Specializes in ICU. Has 27 years experience.

This too shall pass, the work will get done. Take care of yourselves.


Specializes in Psych nursing. Has 11 years experience.

I’m also having the same dilemma on whether I should return to work. I’m a psychiatric nurse in a Crisis Center and we do not have any n 95 masks. I’m 62 years old and my 67 year old husband is diabetic. I have been granted a 4 week leave of absence which ends 4/12. I am, however, feeling guilty about leaving my coworkers in a bind to cover my shifts. But, I would not be able to forgive myself if I brought home this virus to my husband. I have been staying in a hotel for the past week since my last day of work and hope to return home tomorrow.
Take care and be safe everyone.

NurseBettie, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med/surg, orthopedics, neuroscience.

You are doing the right thing to break the chain of infection. Surgeries are canceled, so those nurses are getting shuffled to cover staffing and get a paycheck. My friends report no staffing issues, just supply shortages.