Effective talent management approaches to HR dictate that staff members should be provided with a comfortable workplace environment and opportunities for effective performance. However, when staff members become physically or mentally incapable of handling the workload or the type of tasks to which they are assigned, ethical dilemmas arise. The problem becomes particularly complicated and ethically taxing in the scenarios such as the case of Mary, whose workplace commitment and loyalty must be recognized, yet whose quality of performance puts patients in peril. Although age discrimination policies and the established employee rights demand that Mary should be offered an opportunity to stay, patient safety, as well as the general principles of non-maleficence and patient beneficence require that Mary should be dismissed.
At first glance, dismissing Mary seems to be the logical solution in the case at and. Indeed, given Mary’s lack of ability to control her decision-making and implement her nursing responsibilities, expanding the latter any further would mean causing potential harm to patients. However, since the decision to fire Mary is based on her limitations caused by her age, the proposed solution could be seen as an instance of age discrimination. Indeed, the existing standards for protecting the rights of employees are established in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) (Marquis & Huston, 2021). Nevertheless, given the fact that it is not the age but physical limitations caused by it that have served as the basis for dismissing Mary, the specified regulation does not apply fully in this case.
The perspective of patient safety is another critical principle that must be considered when making the decision regarding Mary’s dismissal. According to the case study, Mary is presently prone to confusing basic procedures and patient characteristics, such as their sex, as the case of a newborn’s circumcision indicates. Although the specified case was viewed as humorous by the rest of the staff, it, in fact, indicates the presence of a significant patient risk. Namely, for newborns, as well as other patients who cannot communicate their needs or are incapable of making informed decisions, being dependent on a nurse that can administer the wrong treatment represents a life threat. Therefore, given the drastic effects that the observed issue has on patients’ safety and well-being, Mary must be removed from her nursing responsibilities based on the principles of patient beneficence and non-maleficence as principal standards of nursing ethics.
In the case at hand, the nurse’s rights are protected under the AEDA. Among these, the right not to be discriminated on the basis of her age could serve as the reason for keeping Mary in her current position. However, Marquis and Huston (2021) also assert that the current standards for viewing age as a protected category may have notably negative implications. Specifically, Marquis and Huston (2021, p. 593) detail the problems that may arise in jobs that “have demanding physical requirements such as those in nursing.” Therefore, while Mary has the right to to be discriminated on the basis of her age, her performance must not jeopardize the well-being of patients. In turn, the proposed solution discriminates not on the basis of a nurse’s age, but on the nurse’s ability to perform the functions listed as basic job requirements, which Mary does not seem to meet presently.
Finally, from the perspective of managing workplace responsibilities, leaving Mary at her current position will be highly irresponsible sine she is currently very prone to errors. Studies reveal that medical errors may lead to fatal outcomes in patients, which is why it will be completely irresponsible to allow her to continue working as a nurse. Being incapable of checking the type of medication that she administers to patients, as well as managing other types of patient data, Mary will be unable to handle the current range of responsibilities that she must manage as a nurse. For this reason, letting Mary stay will be exceptionally irresponsible toward patients and extraordinarily dishonest toward Mary herself. At the same time, dismissing Mary will pose another ethical issue, namely, that one of making her face likely poverty. As the case states, Mary does not have any opportunities to support herself other than the current position that she holds at the hospital. Therefore, a compromise must be reached by offering her a different position.
Despite the fact that the current regulations against age discrimination suggest that firing Mary on the basis of her age would be a breach of her employee rights, patient safety and the fact that Mary is incapable of managing her responsibilities properly suggest that she should be dismissed. Offering Mary a position in the facility that would minimize her interactions with patients and relieve her of the responsibilities associated with administering medications could be seen as a sensible compromise in the case at hand. Although Mary is likely to view the proposed solution as substantial demotion, it represents a sensible compromise that allows maintaining patient safety while ensuring that Mary has enough resources to survive. Therefore, the described option should be executed immediately to prevent further harm to patients.
Marquis, B. L., & Huston, C. J. (2021). Leadership roles and management functions in nursing: Theory and application (9th ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.