Nursing is fast-paced, complex and rewarding. Nurses not only provide daily patient care, they also comfort family members and make difficult decisions regarding care. The first code of ethics for nurses, which was adopted in 1950 by the American Nurses Association (ANA), continues to be revised as the nursing profession evolves. Nurses have a professional obligation to uphold the standards of the nursing practice for their patients, themselves, their peers and the institutions where they work.
Why Are Ethics Important in Nursing?
Nurses face many complicated and stressful situations. Should you give a patient pain medication if they have an addiction problem? How do you help frail patients who do not want to lose their independence? What should you do when a patient refuses a needed blood transfusion due to religious beliefs?
As a nurse, you have an ethical commitment to protecting your patients, preventing illness, alleviating suffering, restoring health and promoting wellness. Ethics constitute the essential component of nursing that ensures patients receive safe and quality care without loss of dignity. Nurses who are prepared in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program learn about ethics that accompany the delivery of patient care. Ethical nurses use morality when applying their knowledge and skills.
Why Do Nurses Follow the ANA Code of Ethics?
The ANA Code of Ethics serves to inform nurses about the primary goals and values of the nursing profession. The goals and values remind nurses about their duty to patients, the community and the public. The Code guides nurses in appropriate conduct so they can determine the best strategy to assist patients.
The Code was last updated in 2015, and it includes nine provisions with interpretive statements. The provisions identify the responsibilities of nurses, and the statements describe their application to nursing. Here is a brief summary of the provisions:
|Provision 1||Show compassion and respect.|
|Provision 2||First commitment is to the patient.|
|Provision 3||Protect and advocate for the health and rights of patients.|
|Provision 4||Demonstrate responsibility and accountability for decisions and actions.|
|Provision 5||Maintain cometence and integrity, and continue professional growth.|
|Provision 6||Cultivate a moral environment and nurture an adherence to ethics.|
|Provision 7||Advance the profession through practice, education, administration and lifelong learning.|
|Provision 8||Collaborate with and support other healthcare professionals and the public to address health needs and concerns.|
|Provision 9||Uphold the principles of nursing, and express the need for social justice through
participation in professional associations and by influencing health policy.
Is Nursing a Trusted Profession?
For the fifteenth consecutive year, nursing placed first in a 2016 Gallup Poll on the professions considered most honest and ethical. The other 22 professions listed include medical doctors, police officers, clergy and college teachers. The phone survey polls U.S. residents aged 18 and up. In 2016, 84 percent of respondents scored nurses ‘high’ or ‘very high’ for honesty and ethical standards.
Gallup began rating professions for honesty and ethics in 1999. Nurses have topped the poll every year except 2001 when firefighters took first place following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Ethical issues are part of nursing. We live in a time when we can prolong life through technology, but it may not always be the best for the patient. Sometimes, a nurse’s job consists of simply easing a patient’s anxiety and discomfort while preparing them for end of life. Other times nurses may encounter moral dilemmas that go against their own beliefs. No matter what circumstances nurses confront, they must put aside their prejudices and provide ethical, empathic patient care.
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