Nursing Ethics

December 26, 2012 — 1,439 views  
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Many people believe that the Nursing profession share or should share a common code of ethics with that of medical practice, that is to say, should borrow its ethical standard from the medical ethics. This belief may not be without merit, since the nursing profession is an inseparable branch of medical practice. However, the distinction exists between nursing and medical practice by virtue of the nature of nursing which has to first and foremost with ‘caring' as against ‘curing' generally is a function of medicine. Again, with the rapid increase in the popularity and importance of the nursing practice which is led to more diversification and widened specialization, it became necessary to formulate a separate and distinct ethical standard for the nursing profession.

Applying the distinction cited above between nursing as a caring profession and medicine as a curing profession means that nursing ethics will apply to the examination of the ethics of caring as against 'curing' by exploring the relationship between the nurse and the patient. Even then, nursing ethics inevitably shares a number of  principles with medical ethics. Nursing ethics is therefore distinguished from medical ethics by its focus on relationships, human dignity and collaborative care.

Early conception and definition of nursing ethics focused more on the qualities that  make a good nurse  rather than on the right conduct of the nurse in patient care.

Today however, the focus has enlarged to include and indeed emphasize professional conduct by way of the nurse's obligation to respect the human rights of the patient but without de-emphasizing personal virtues and professional competence. As a matter of fact, many versions of nursing ethics  explicitly state the need for  nurses of all categories and specialties not only to possess professional competence but also to pursue professional development through continuing education and training.

Nursing ethics particularly stresses the need for nurses not to do anything which could cause physical or emotional  harm to a patient. Other basic themes of nursing ethics include the dignity of patients and the need for nurses' concern about this by way of respecting patients' rights and wishes to an extent that allows patients make reasonable and informed  input in the way and manner they are treated or cared for.

Nursing ethics also generally require nurses to support people in caring for themselves to improve and maintain their health and recognize and respect the contribution that people make to their own care and wellbeing. They are also to act immediately to put matters right if someone in their care has suffered harm for any reason as well as explain fully and promptly to the person affected what has happened and the likely effects.

Confidentiality is another important principle of nursing ethics which requires confidentiality on the part of the nurse with regard to information about the person except with the explicit or implied permission of the patient or in compliance with higher obligation involving the preservation of the patient's life. Nurses must listen to the people in their care and respond to their concerns and preferences.

Nursing ethics also enjoin nurses to ensure that their professional judgment is not influenced by any commercial considerations and not to use their professional status to promote causes that are not related to health. There are a whole lot of other clauses in various versions of nursing ethics in various countries and among various nursing organizations.

Various professional nursing organizations in America have their respective code of ethics, some with as many as 5-150 clauses, and  usually with the approval or supervision of relevant government agencies. There are currently in America many professional journals on nursing ethics.

In general, modern nursing codes of ethics constitute a guide for nursing  responsibilities in a manner consistent with quality, competence and  moral obligations for the ultimate purpose of getting nurses to understand that the people in their care must be able to trust them with their health and wellbeing. To earn that trust and confidence, nurses should make the care of people their primary concern, treat them as individuals and respect their dignity. Nurses should work to protect and promote the health and well being of their patients as well as their families and care givers.

As professionals, nursing ethics hold a nurse personally accountable for actions and omissions in his or her practice and require him or her to always be able to justify their decisions. They should at all times be open, honest and uphold the reputation of their profession by acting with integrity and with the requirements of the law.

Several nursing ethics codes require professional nurses to subscribe to a written pledge of compliance before they can be licensed or admitted as member while nurses who flout the ethical code can face various disciplinary measures such as suspension, termination or revocation of license, depending on the gravity of misconduct.