There is a need for ethics in every aspect of our lives, including our careers. But for some professions, such as nursing, ethics are essential due to the life-and-death responsibilities of healthcare providers.
It is not just patients affected by the decisions nurses make, but also their families, for the rest of their lives.
Ethics is a vital part of the nursing profession. Nurses are expected to adhere to the ethical principles set forth by their professional organizations and those that govern the laws in their state.
As per the American Nurses Association, the nursing code of ethics “allows nurses to carry out their responsibilities in a manner consistent with ethical obligations and high standards of nursing care.”
Ethics is a broad topic for any profession, but it’s essential in nursing. In this blog post, We will explore why ethics is important in nursing and how they can make ethical decisions that benefit their patients.
What Is Ethics in Nursing?
Sometimes, nurses face situations in the workplace that challenge their ethical standards.
For example, a nurse may be asked to compromise professional ethics to save lives. The National Council for State Boards of Nursing has outlined guidelines that nurses should follow when presented with these situations.
Ethics is the code of moral principles that guide people’s behavior and decisions about what is morally right or wrong.
Ethics serves as a compass through difficult circumstances and helps shape how we live our life every day.
By following ethical standards set by society, laws, organizations, and employers, not just nursing boards, nurses can help maintain integrity while providing quality care for patients who need it most.
Parts of Ethics
Ethics can be broken down into three distinct parts
Moral ethics: This is about making decisions based on personal values rather than what society deems acceptable or unacceptable.
Professional ethics: It is about behaving in your workplace and what decisions are acceptable or unacceptable.
Legal ethics: Are concerned with compliance with federal and state statutes governing patient care.
Practical ethics: It refers to the decision-making process when there is no clear answer for which action should be taken next because all options have pros and cons associated with them.
Nurses must maintain their integrity by following some essential steps that will help them respond appropriately to these situations where the moral code might be unclear.
Why should Nurses follow ethics?
Follow legal requirements of nursing boards, employers, and professional organizations, as well as laws set forth by society.
Even though this may not always seem like an easy answer, it protects you legally and provides peace of mind down the line if there was ever suspicion on why you followed specific actions such as an order or a rule.
Consider the patients’ wishes and goals in light of their values, cultural perspective, age, spiritual beliefs, and other factors specific to them.
You should also consider legal requirements for healthcare providers when providing your opinion on what is best for the patient.
This includes informed consent, which means sharing information with patients about risks associated with procedures so they can make educated choices.
Patients have rights as well, and these are taken into consideration during ethical decision-making processes by nurses.
Still, there could be cases where some actions violate those rights, such as euthanasia, while it might seem like the most humane way out for someone who has gone through medical treatments unsuccessfully in the past.
Why Is Ethics in Nursing Important?
Most Nurses face challenges almost every day. They are in the position of being caring, knowledgeable, and responsible for a person’s health.
Here are situations nurses face almost every day:
Obtain informed consent: The nurse must be informed about the patient’s condition and understand what they are consenting for.
Careful documentation: The Nurse needs a thorough understanding of how health information is stored to protect it from misuse, misinterpretation, or erroneous use;
Reporting adverse events/situations: Nurses must say any problems that may have been caused by their actions or those of others. This includes but not limited to medication errors and unsafe practices while caring for patients;
Maintaining confidentiality: Sometimes, nursing staff needs access to personal records such as HIV status (a person can’t tell their doctor without telling the whole world). So people who work with these records especially nurses-need an ethical approach when handling sensitive data.
Nurses know they have to be ethical people; otherwise, their patients will suffer because of it. Honest nurses always act as role models for others working with patients by treating them like family members or friends and protecting privacy through confidentiality codes.
Ethics is essential when you want competent nurses who deliver care that meets standards set by organizations, including the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF).
Ethics also provides an opportunity to teach these values to new students entering into a nursing profession which may not come from families where ethics were taught at home. This sets up the student nurse to hopefully become competent.
Ethical Conflicts in Nursing
It is not uncommon for nurses to face ethical dilemmas. Nurses often have two different moral obligations, one to the patient and another to society. Nurses must act accordingly in these situations as there will impact both their personal lives and their career.
A nurse may face a situation where they are obligated by law not to testify about something illegal or unethical. Still, if they don’t do so, then it could harm other people who need treatment because of what happened at the hospital.
A nurse might also incur legal liability themselves if they were involved with what happened.
For example, helping someone commit suicide is illegal under some circumstances, or falsifying documents such as death certificates without consent from the next of kin when nobody has been found yet.
The other conflict is when a nurse has to provide evidence against someone else in their care or even refuse treatment that the hospital might be obligated to give by law.
A nursing professional is required by law and ethics codes of conduct not to disclose any information about the patient unless they have consent from at least one person authorized. This could include anything like diagnosis, prognosis, previous treatments, and another medical history.
They are also expected to protect this confidentiality even after the individual stops being under his/her care because it can still cause harm if people know specific facts without knowing what happened firsthand.
As nurses, you have a responsibility to uphold our values and ethical standards. If you’re struggling with a moral dilemma in your day-to-day nursing life, remember that many resources are available for help. The most important thing is prioritizing what’s best for the patient when it comes down to it.
More Resources for Ethics in Nursing:
- 5 Current Healthcare Issues
- Fundamentals of Nursing: Books and Resources
- Ethical Challenges Of A Health & Medical Advice Website