Nursing: Ethical Practices with Older Adults, 2nd Edition

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About the Course

By the year 2040, approximately one in five U.S. residents will be age 65 or older. Nurses are increasingly called upon to care for older adults and address their complex health issues. This course highlights the ethical issues that older adults and their families face as these individuals near the end-of-life, particularly in light of advances in medical technologies. The course presents the ethical frameworks and principles used to resolve ethical problems, identifies major ethical issues nurses face as their older adult patients make healthcare decisions, and provides a model for addressing ethical dilemmas in healthcare settings.

Learning Outcomes:
Upon completion of this course, the learner will be able to:
  • Identify frameworks and principles commonly used in healthcare settings for resolving ethical problems that nurses may encounter.
  • Recognize the steps used by nurses and other healthcare professionals to resolve ethical dilemmas that may arise in caring for older adult patients.
  • Distinguish between assessment of an older adult patient’s mental capacity and legal competence.
  • Describe how advance care planning can be discussed with older adult patients.
  • Identify the hierarchy commonly used in surrogate decision making for older adult patients.
  • Recognize ethical concerns that can arise related to the use of medical technologies for older adults with chronic, debilitating disease.

About the Authors:   

Sherry M. Cummings, PhD, MSW, MA, is an associate dean and professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work in Nashville, where she has been on the faculty since 1998. Dr. Cummings holds a doctorate in social work from the University of Georgia, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland, and a master’s degree in theology from Villanova University. She has written and published journal articles, books, book chapters, and government reports, and has presented papers nationally on the mental health needs of older adults, the impact of those needs on caregivers, and the ethical dilemmas in working with older clients. Dr. Cummings is actively involved in the development of curriculum materials for gerontological training in graduate social work education and has worked closely with government agencies to promote programs addressing the mental health needs of older adults.

Tennyson Dodd, BS, MTHS, is a graduate of Lipscomb University and Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School. At Vanderbilt, he earned a master’s degree in theological studies and is currently pursuing his master of science degree in social work at the University of Tennessee. During his time at the University of Tennessee, Mr. Dodd has provided psychotherapy services to children in Nashville’s public school system and to students, faculty, and staff at a local university. Mr. Dodd is also a research assistant on issues of aging and mental health, housing, and refugees/immigrants.

Marcie Scott, MSN, RN, has 25+ years of professional nursing experience, with a master’s degree in cardiovascular nursing. Ms. Scott was most recently the Co-Director of Certification and Education at the International Association of Forensic Nurses, where she assessed member continuing education needs and developed online activities. She also served as a senior editor with the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), including developing and conducting item-writing workshops for nursing content experts and editing items for the ANCC credentialing examinations. As a program manager with a health maintenance organization, Ms. Scott conducted health education seminars and developed disease management and health promotion materials for older adult members with chronic disease.

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