Ethics in the Field of Nursing

Posted on 01. Jan, 2007 by in Nursing ethics

Shawn Thomas asked:

Nursing is a profession that demands trust. A patient places their health and well being not only in the hands of their physicians, but in the hands of their nurses as well. So, to ensure that new nurses understand, and experienced nurses remember, this aspect of their profession, a nurse’s code of ethic was developed. Ethics in the field of nursing are meant to hold nurses accountable to the highest standards for patients care. It is important to note that there are many versions of this code. However, since most the notable difference is the terminology and level of detail in which each topic is described, we will touch on the most common concepts or provisions.

The first and most important provision of ethics in the field of nursing is to practice with the compassion and understanding that all individuals should treated with dignity and respect regardless of their health problems, social status, race, religion, disability, financial status, or creed. This particular ethical provision is broken down to further outline the importance of a nurse’s relationship with patience, the respect for human dignity, the relationships with colleagues and peers, and the right of self-determination, or a patient’s right to decide their fate provided they are given accurate information regarding their condition and options.

The second provision in the code of ethics for nurses is that a nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient. This section discusses how nurses should wade through conflicts where a nurse’s patient and others, typically family members, other loved ones, or employers, have differing opinions on care and treatment needed. In these situations a nurse must maintain the integrity of the nursing profession, by safeguarding the patient’s best interest. This provision also specifies the need for collaboration between nurses, other medical professionals, and any other person relevant to a patient’s care. Finally there is section that outlines the need for professional boundaries. The code of ethics describes the need for nurses to maintain professionalism in relationships with patients and colleagues in order to ensure their patients receive the best care possible.

Next, there is the need for a nurse to promote not only a patient’s health and wellbeing, but also the rights of a patient. This provision covers the need for privacy and confidentiality. This section specifies that only the information vital to a patient’s health should be disclosed and only to those who are directly involved in that patient’s care. However there are exceptions to this provision. Information should also be disclosed if it may protect other individuals or become a public health concern. There are also exceptions to the rule for things such as peer reviews, third party payments, lawsuits, and rehabilitations; but patient information must be disclosed in a way that upholds any and all privacy policies, protocols, laws, and/or regulations. Taking appropriate action when any member of a health team is acting inappropriately or practicing under any undo influence is also covered under this provision.

The fourth provision discusses the need for nurses to take responsibility and to be held accountable for their actions. The actions of a nurse will affect a patient’s standard of care. Therefore, nurses must ensure that they show sound judgment in treating patients and delegating tasks to other nurses. In delegating, nurses must ensure that they delegate to a healthcare professional who is capable and qualified to complete the task.

Since nursing can be a thankless profession, the next provision mandates that nurses treat themselves with the care in which they treat their patients. This provision calls for the nurse to continue to grow and learn their craft; take time for him or herself; and, preserve their integrity and moral self-respect.

There are also provisions that outline a nurse’s responsibility to the public and the need for nurses to positively influence their working environment. Nurses have a responsibility to use their knowledge for the betterment of those around them. They should not get caught up in the negativity of others, even if it is coming from coworkers or superiors in their workplace.

The final provisions call for nurses to strive to take the profession forward through research, identifying health needs and concerns, and by staying abreast of and implementing best practices for patient care, healthcare, and new technology.

Ethics in the field of nursing is as important as the profession itself. So to ensure uniformity the American Nurses Association created a Nursing Code of Ethics. However, it is important to note that although this is the most popular code, there are others, specifically for various other countries. This standard for nurses has been updated over the years and will continue to change with the healthcare industry. Yet, the heart of the ethical code for nurses is and will always be the health and welfare of their patients.

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