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The International Council of Nurses and the World Health Organization defined nursing as a profession or practice that involves independent as well as collaborative care of all individuals, families, communities and societies, sick or well in all state of affairs. Nursing includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill and provision of rehabilitative services to terminally ill patients and those living with disabilities to maintain the optimal health and the quality of life aspect in the definition of health (ICN 2012). Nursing is both art and practice thus making it a complex profession that requires vigilant competent and committed personnel to provide services to the public taking considerations to key nursing roles such as advocacy, promotion of a safe environment, research, and participation in developing and reviewing of policies and inpatient and health systems management, and continued education (ICN 2012). Like any other profession, nursing is governed by a set of ethical principles/requirements; high level of education commits to the professional code of ethics/code of conduct and to protect the interest of the public. According to Brown, (n.d.), the code of ethics for nurses focuses on the professional behaviour and on making sure decision making is client oriented as much as possible and outlines ethical responsibilities of the nurse. It is the responsibility of the whole nursing fraternity to have a copy of the code available at all times, know and understand the content, abide by the code as well as a duty to effectively and carefully practice their profession.
It is very important for the nursing profession to have and understand their code of ethics. This paper will discuss the code of ethics in details including the purpose and the implications of the code of ethics. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, (2018), refer to the code of ethics for nurses’ as an important document that outlines the legal requirements, professional behavior and conduct expectations as well as obligations for all nurses, in all areas of practice. The code further describes the principles of professional conduct guiding safe service delivery and clearly summarizes the conduct expected of nurses by their clients/patients, colleagues and the community at large (Lachman 2009). The code is developed such that it is in harmony with the country’s Law. The code consists of seven principles of conduct, grouped into focus areas “domains”, each with an explanatory statement and practical guidance to demonstrate how it is applied in nursing practice. Supporting the code of ethics is the expectation that nurses will use their professional judgment to deliver the best results in their area of practice (Gibbons S. & Jeschke E 2012 and Haddad & Geiger 2018).
The code of ethics is a very important tool for nurses to have because nursing is a very complex and dynamic profession that deals with human lives; omissions, substandard of care and negligence are not tolerated. The code reminds nurses of their primary focus which is centered around the care and the rights of their patients. Limentani (1999) mentioned that when patients seek medical assistance they often feel at risk yet; there is a need to share intimate and vital information about their lives thus the need of the code to shape the behavior of the nurse as she/he takes care of the patient professionally. Nurses are expected to provide nursing care the correct way at the very first time they provide the service according to the code. The code should be ethical effective to provide guidance on managing ethical issues ‘dilemmas’ that might arise at the societal level, the administrative level, and the clinical level. According to the ICN (2012) an ethical effective code act as; a brief statement of the ethical obligations and responsibilities of every individual who enters the nursing profession, profession’s non – negotiable ethical standard and an expression of nursing’s own understanding of its commitment to society to avoid unnecessary misconduct. Nursing nationally and internationally is expected to function according to the code.
LSUA, (2016) made it clear that patients have the right to make decisions about their healthcare and decide to accept or refuse treatment, however, they should expect to receive accurate and complete information about their conditions from nurses who are taking care of them and make informed decisions based on the information shared to them. While taking care of the client there are many ethical issues that the nurse may encounter where only the code can defend the practicing nurse thus it is very important in nursing profession (Zahedi, et. al 2012). Nurses should be observant of these ethical issues as they might sometimes conflict with the very same code of ethics, nurse’s values and beliefs resulting. Consideration should be made especially for the first four (4) principles (autonomy, beneficence, justice, and non-maleficence). According to Haddad & Geiger (2018), nurses should remember that all patients have a right to be treated fairly and equally while healthcare workers including nurses have a duty to refrain from maltreatment, minimize harm, and promote good health towards patients (beneficence). Nurses are also expected to assist patients with tasks that they are unable to perform on their own such as bathing a bedridden patient, keeping side rails up for a restless patient, and/or providing medications as prescribed and on time. Failure to adhere to the principles of the code may result in suspension from work, dismissal, lawsuits as well as forfeiting certificates by nurses. So it is for those reasons it is very important for nurses to be up to date with their code of ethics.
The code of ethics for nurses is a guide for action based on social values and needs. It has meaning only as a living document if applied to the realities of nursing and health care in a changing society. To achieve its purpose the code must be well understood, internalized and used by nurses in all aspects of their work. It must be available to nurses throughout their work lives.
List of References
- Browne, C. (n.d.). Ethical Responsibilities of Nurses. Work-Chron.com. Retrieved http://work.chron.com/ethical-responsibilities-nurses-10778.html
- Gibbons, S. W. & Jeschke, E. A. (2016). Nursing ethics: A lifelong commitment. Springer Publishing Company. Chapter 1. Annual Review of Nursing Research, 2016, Vol.34, pp.1-X https://monash.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action
- Haddad LM, Geiger RA. Nursing ethical considerations. [Updated 2018 Oct 27]. In: StatPearls Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2018 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books
- International Council of Nurses. (2012). The ICN code of ethics for nurses. http://www.icn.ch
- Lachman, V. (2009). Practical use of the nursing code of ethics: Part 1. MEDSURG Nursing Vol. 18 (1) pp 55 – 57. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19331301
- Limentani A. E. (1999). The role of ethical principles in health care and the implications for ethical codes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC479265/ Journal of medical ethics, 25(5), 394-8.
- Louisiana State University of Alexandra (LSUA). (2017). Importance of ethics in nursing https://online.lsua.edu/articles/healthcare/importance-of-ethics-in-nursing.aspx
- Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. (2018). Code of ethics for nurses in Australia. http:// www.nursingwidwiferyboard.gov.au
- Zahedi, F; Sanjari, M; Aala, M; Peymani, M; Aramesh, K; Parsapour, A; Maddah, SS; Cheraghi, MA; Mirzabeigi, G H; Larijani, B; Dastgerdi, M. (2012). The code of ethics for nurses. https://monash.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action Iranian Journal of Public Health, Jan 2013, Vol.42 (1), pp.1-8
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