Nurses are expected to abide by a set of professional ethics. When working towards a degree in nursing, a course in nursing, ethics is required. The Code represents a set of duties and ethical obligations that all nurses must follow. The full code and definition of nursing ethics is lengthy, but it can be summarized to provide insight.
The first provision states that a nurse must practice with respect and compassion. All individuals have worth and dignity. No nurse should consider the patient’s social or economic status or judge by health issues or personality. For example, a nurse should not refuse to treat a patient that lacks the financial ability to pay for care. A nurse may not judge a patient seeking treatment for a sexually transmitted disease. A nurse cannot provide better care to a married mother than to an unwed mother.
In provision 2, the nurse is reminded that the most important commitment is to the patient. A patient, in this sense, may refer to one individual, a family or an entire community. The definition of nursing ethics for this provision explains the types of conflicts a nurse may encounter. Nurses are expected to allow a patient to participate in the patient’s care. If the patient’s choice conflict with the choices of others, the nurse is required to find a resolution.
Nurses may also encounter conflicts of interest in financial areas. The healthcare and insurance industry can present a conflict between the nurse’s interest, the medical provider’s interest and the patient’s needs.
This provision states that a nurse must be an advocate for the patient. The nurse is charged with ensuring that the health, rights, and safety of the patient come first. Defining this, nurses must not ignore a colleague with an impairment that jeopardizes patient care. Nurses are expected to report any observance of unsafe or unethical behavior by any medical professional.
Nurses are accountable for the nursing care they provide and for any tasks that they delegate. For example, if a nurse is aware of an incorrect medicine dosage, the situation must be reported. If a co-worker fails to follow through with an assigned procedure, the nurse must rectify the situation.
Nurses are obligated to themselves in their personal morals and ethics. A nurse is expected to have individual integrity. Continuation of both personal and professional growth is part of this commitment.
Improving and Maintaining health care conditions and the environment are included in a nurse’s responsibility. The quality of care and a consistency in values can be promoted by both an individual and a group. This means that nurses must accept responsibility in regard to the care given by a medical care facility where they are employed. If unsafe, inappropriate or unethical practices are being performed, the nurse is obligated to address the situation.
Actively participating in the advancement of the nursing profession is a requirement for all nurses. Contributions can include involvement in education and the formation of healthcare policies. A nurse must continue professional education and participate or encourage in education advancement for the community. Nurses can serve as role models or become involved with community outreach programs. A nursing educator must maintain the highest standards for both education and practice.
Nurses must work with the public, and other health care professionals to meet the health care needs. This includes need on a local, national or international level. For example, nurses need to be aware of the health of the entire community and health issues that affect the community. Additionally, while a nurse may have individual cultural values, respect must be shown for differing cultures in the community.
The nursing profession as a whole must maintain professional practice and nursing values. Nurses are expected to participate in the advancement in public education and nursing care and. Involvement in groups that raise awareness of social issues including human rights violations, violence and homeless are part of social awareness.
The American Nurses Association provides a full list of the Code of Ethics, with a definition of nursing ethics, which can be used by anyone who want to further their knowledge. The Code of Ethics for nurses is considered non-negotiable and is required to perform as a professional. While there are changes in the wording of the code, the meaning has remained the same.