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Nurse’s Relation to Obedience and Conformity Essay

Nurse’s Relation to Obedience and Conformity Essay

As revealed by Myres (2009), group influences are very powerful in the way individual behaviors are largely controlled by the decisions of the majority. According to Asch’s experiment on conformity, individuals tend to act to please their social groups or to go along with the entire group preferences. On the other hand, Milgram’s experiment on obedience reveals how individual behaviors are largely influenced by authority figures, even to an extent of going against moral values (Snow, 2004).Nurse’s Relation to Obedience and Conformity Essay

Though social values act as guiding principles for behavioral actions, immediate groups’ influences have been revealed to be quite powerful in determining behavioral outcomes. Psychological researches have shown that, conformity and obedience are socially impacted, with very little or no individuals efforts on the behavioral actions adopted. This paper analyzes a case where a nurse was left in a situation to choose whether to follow doctor’s instructions or her own conscience on administering some medicine to a patient.

In the case given, the nurse’s behavior would largely be influenced by the prior behaviors of the individuals under the same circumstances. Since about 95% of individuals in similar cases have previously followed doctor’s instructions, the nurse would find it more influential to conform to doctor’s prescriptions, rather than acting according to her conscience. As revealed by Snow (2004), individuals conform to social authorities in search of favor or to be accepted as part of a certain social setting.


In this case, the nurse has no otherwise but to agree and conform to the doctor’s prescription of giving the patient 20mg of the prescribed medicine, despite it being described to be administered at maximum amount of 10mg (Hofling et al, 1966). Generally, it is socially normal for superiors or authorities to influence individuals’ behavioral actions regardless of whether they are ethical or not (Myres, 2009).Nurse’s Relation to Obedience and Conformity Essay

With reference to Milgram’s experiment on obedience, behaviors are usually controlled by instructions from authorities. Since authority figures are considered as having special influences on behavioral actions, individuals tend to obey in fear of being punished or unpleasant consequences (Snow, 2004). In the case give, the doctor’s influence on the nurse seems more powerful than nurse’s conscience which would trigger the nurse to follow the instructions given by the doctor, while disregarding her conscience on the matter.

Since the doctor is more superior to the nurse, the nurse will have no otherwise but to follow the instructions accurately as prescribed by her senior, though the action may be unethical since it would endanger the life of the patient. In cases where individuals tend to ignore authority’s instructions, Myres (2009) reveals how they risk their currently held positions.

Though it may be seemingly unethical for nurses to act without written communication from the doctor, the underlying influence of superiority of the doctor to make the nurses violate pharmaceutical prescriptions is expected. As Snow (2004) reports, social impact is influential in cases where a certain message or action is repeated by many people in similar circumstances. Particularly, consistency plays a very important role in influencing individuals over a certain behavioral action (Myres, 2009).

In the case give, the nurse ought to conform to the existing norms of adhering to the doctor’s prescriptions regardless of whether they are ethical or not, since about 95% of nurses in similar circumstances obeyed the doctor (Hofling et al, 1966). Though it may be against social ethics to administer a patient with an overdose, previous trends would be more influential than personal decisions.


As it was observed, social impacts are very powerful determinants of behavior, where individuals tend to act in accordance to group behaviors or authority’s influences. With regard to this study, the nurse was entrusted with the role of upholding ethical values while at the same time obeying authorities.

Since obedience to authority would be more powerful than individual’s conscience, the nurse would ultimately end up administering the prescribed overdose to the patient. With reference to the previous trends, the nurse would ultimately consider conforming to the group behavior of other nurses who had been previously in the same circumstances.


Hofling, C. et al. (1966). An Experimental Study in Nurse-Physician Relations. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 143: 171–180

Myres, D. (2009). Psychology, 9th Edition. New York: Worth Publishers.

Snow, C. (2004). Conformity and Obedience. Facing History and Ourselves, 23(1): 209- 247.Nurse’s Relation to Obedience and Conformity Essay


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