The professional practise of nursing brings with it several daily, ethical dilemmas. This sometimes makes it hard for nurses to make ethical decisions and to help them do so, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has provided a code of ethics for guidance. Apart from ensuring that nurses make ethical decisions, the code helps improves their morale, makes their work less stressful, and augments the patients’ outcomes. Some of the issues addressed in the code of ethics pertain to the safety of patients, the promotion of the rights and dignity of patients, and the advancement of the nursing profession.
The Principles of the Nursing Code of Ethics
There are nine essential provisions in the ANA code of ethics. They ensure that nurses remain ethical in all their duties. Some of the provisions include;
- Every human being has dignity, worth and unique attributes and the nurse is enjoined to practice her profession with compassion and respect for every person.
- Whether an individual, a family, a group, community or population, the nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient is mandatory.
- The basic rights, health and safety of the patient are what the nurse is enjoined to promote, advocate for, and protect at all times.
- The nurse is required to advance the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy in all her roles and settings.
The most important issue for an aspiring nurse like me, among the above four essential elements of the ANA code of ethics, is the one pertaining to safety of patients. One has to be alert as a professional to the doctors’ instructions, understanding of the patient’s physical and mental condition, the prescribed medications, their effects and side-effects and dosage timings, and the use of technologies that enhance patient safety, treatment, recovery and recuperation. While I am confident about being professional about the above aspects, being compassionate and respectful towards the feelings of both patient and his/her relatives is a tougher challenge. Further, given the busy schedule of a nurse, I have to be careful not to allow any accidents, infections, injuries, or clinical errors in dealing with each patient.
Today, nurses live in healthcare scenarios that are more holistic in terms of treatment procedures. The commitment and care towards the patient is primary and, in this context, I find it challenging to improve my communication skills with other nursing and clinical staff, the patients and their families. Communication skills are critical because sometimes one is not just treating a single patient but may be dealing with many similar cases in a group scenario and yet each patient is unique in terms of their needs and assurances required. I have to constantly keep in mind that patients and their relatives also have both fundamental human and legal rights and that my services and communications must keep those rights in mind when dealing with them so that no offense is given. Respecting the worth and dignity of patients is also about respecting their legal rights and I am aware of the challenges in respecting the patients’ right to autonomy, information about their treatment and medical condition and to make choices on their treatment and privacy.
Nursing is a hectic profession and I struggle with fulfilling the principle in the code of ethics that encourages me to advance my profession through research. I have been consistently trying to upgrade my knowledge base by keeping both mental and written notes about interesting cases and then referring to medical or nursing books or discussing these with peers so that I can gain a broader and deeper understanding of the profession and how it can be advanced. I propose to enrol myself in taking short courses that help me undertake research projects to harness knowledge and learn more about evidence-based practices to improve patient care. This learning will also help me develop nursing policies, along with peers, that can guide our practice.
The American Nursing Association’s code of ethics is a very useful starting point that enables nurses to make ethical decisions that facilitate the provision of high-quality healthcare. I am interested in various ways the ANA code of nursing ethics is being interpreted in a variety of situations pertaining to how medical professionals can and must respect the rights and dignity of patients. Another emerging area I am interested in relates to how patients from different cultural backgrounds and belief systems can be looked after without their sensibilities being offended. Overall, I find that the ANA ethical guidelines are a strong foundation for nurses to safeguard the patients’ right to safety and compassionate care and to improve healthcare through research.