Nurses are considered one of the most ethical and honest professions in the world today. This is not because hospitals only accept compassionate people. It is due to the nature of the work. Apart from their medical duties, they must speak with patients and handle even their families.
In truth, ethics are important in any and all professions. It is set as the foundation and helps guide decision-making towards fairness and justice. With that said though, very few professions make the subject of ethics a necessity.
Why then is ethics in nursing necessary? Join us as we delve more into these ethics and find out why they are vital and essential for nursing.
What is Ethics in Nursing?
The History of the Nursing Codes of Ethics
The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines ethics as “the art of thoughtful reflection and morally good conduct.” It further sets it apart from the law by saying that ethics are based on ideals, while the law is based on statutes. This type of ethics is also called moral philosophy.
The first code of ethics for nurses was established in 1893 by a group of 12 nurses who founded the International Council of Nurses (ICN). It is a federation of national nurse’s associations. In 1953, they released their first formal code which has been revised several times.
The latest revision comes just recently in 2021. It saw the addition of certain elements that come up with a framework for operating ethically.
Why is Ethics in Nursing Important?
First and foremost, it helps nurses act morally and make the best decisions possible. It takes into account the interests of patients, staff, families, and communities. Ethics also promote values such as autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice, and respect for human rights.
When making ethical decisions, nurses must first consider the needs of their patients. They must do everything in their power to ensure that their patients receive the best possible care. This means taking into account their physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Finally, nurses must also respect the autonomy of their patients. This means respecting their right to make their own decisions. Patients have the right to refuse treatment or request a second opinion if they feel uncomfortable.
The crux of the nursing code of ethics is withheld within nine provisions. These provisions serve as guiding posts toward the care nurses need to provide. The following are just several examples of provisions from the ANA.
Dignity and Worth
The first provision talks about the importance of ethics in nursing. It states that nurses must act in a morally responsible way and make sure that their patients receive the best possible care, while also respecting their dignity and worth.
Patients at The Centre
The second provision places the patient and their required care at the centre of their work. Nurses actively need to work for the health of their patients, but must also respect appropriate boundaries.
Influencing the Public
Another provision states that nurses need to influence the public in terms of health and safety. With their professionalism both in and out of the workplace, nurses serve to improve the environment of their hospital.
The final example of a nursing provision that we have is continuous learning. As the medical field continues to grow and innovate, it is the duty of every nurse to continue studying, learning, and improving.
What Are the Different Ethical Situations That Nurses Face?
There are many different ethical situations that nurses face on a daily basis. Some of the most common include obtaining consent forms, dealing with patient confidentiality, being truthful, and dealing with differing religious beliefs and values.
Obtaining Consent Forms
Informed consent is when a patient gives permission for a nurse to provide them with care or treatment. This means that the patient must be fully informed of the risks and benefits of the proposed care or treatment. They must also be competent enough to make an informed decision
There are some situations where informed consent may not be possible or necessary. These include emergency situations, when a patient is unable to give consent, or when a patient is a minor.
Patient confidentiality is when nurses keep the information of their patients private. This includes keeping their medical records confidential and only sharing information with those who need to know. There are some exceptions to patient confidentiality, such as when a patient is a danger to themselves or others.
Nurses must always be truthful with their patients. This includes being honest about their prognosis, treatment options, and the risks and benefits of each option. Nurses should also avoid giving false hope to their patients.
Dealing with Differing Beliefs and Values
Nurses must respect the religious beliefs and values of their patients. This includes allowing them to practice their religion and providing them with information about their care that is in line with their beliefs. Nurses should also avoid imposing their own beliefs on their patients.
What Are the Most Stressful Ethical Situations for Nurses?
The most stressful ethical situations for nurses include end-of-life care, dealing with patients who are in pain, and deciding whether or not to disclose a patient’s diagnosis to their family.
End-of-life care is when nurses provide care for patients who are dying. This can be a very difficult and stressful time for both nurses and patients. Nurses must be sensitive to the needs of their patients and their families. They must also make sure that they are providing the best possible care.
Dealing with Patients Who Are in Pain
Nurses must also deal with patients who are in pain. This can be a difficult situation because there is often a balance between giving enough pain medication to relieve the pain and giving too much which could lead to overdose. Nurses must also be careful not to under-medicate their patients as this can lead to them suffering needlessly.
Deciding Whether or Not to Disclose a Patient’s Diagnosis to Their Family
Another difficult situation that nurses face is deciding whether or not to disclose a patient’s diagnosis to their family. This can be a difficult decision because the nurse must weigh the patient’s right to privacy with the family’s right to know. Ultimately, the decision should be made based on what is in the best interest of the patient.
These are just a few of the many ethical situations that nurses face on a daily basis. Nursing is a difficult and demanding profession, but it is also one that is incredibly rewarding. Nurses have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of their patients and their families.
A Noble Profession
Ethics in nursing is necessary in order to ensure that patients receive the best possible care. Nurses must be honest, respectful, and competent. They must also be prepared to handle difficult and stressful situations.
Nursing is a noble profession. With the nursing code of ethics, their actions are guided towards the betterment of their patients. Not only is the quality of care for their patients improved, but also their community as a whole.
If there is one thing that we can similarly admire in nurses, it is their ability to respond in emergency situations. You can do the same by learning the skills and knowledge of first aid.
Learn more through CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course.