Nursing ethical principles are essential for any healthcare provider. Since nurses have to face various complex situations in their practice. Therefore, nursing needs a code of ethics as fundamental guidance. It can provide nurses with culturally-adapted advice to help them in ethical decision making.
In this section, we will discuss the knowledge and skills of ethical practice for the following reasons:
- To recognize ethical dilemmas and take appropriate actions for them
- Inform client members about ethical issues that are affecting
- Evaluate outcomes from ethical practice
Now you must be thinking, what is ethics? Ethics is a principle that describes what is correct or incorrect in a particular situation. Nurses in America follow ethical principles contained within the American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics.
Functions of Nursing Ethics
Nursing ethical principles developed in the late 19th century. It involves virtues such as physician loyalty, high moral character, and obedience. Since the nursing profession has evolved, nurses are now part of the healthcare team.
The first formal nursing ethical principle was developed in the 1950s to guide the nursing profession. ANA guides nurses in their daily practice; it also sets primary goals and values for the profession. It provides non-negotiable nursing ethical principles. However, the Code of Ethics revised over time. The current version of code represents societal changes, expansion of nursing practices, research, education, and health policy.
“The ethics incorporated into good nursing practice are more important than knowledge of the law; practicing ethically saves the effort of trying to know all the laws” –Hall, J. (1996).
Ethical Principles for Nursing Education
The National League for Nursing (NLN) developed ethical principles of nursing education programs. Nursing educators are responsible for educating the next generation of nurses. The following are some moral principles for nursing education programs.
This principle affirms that no nurse should discriminate their patients based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, and physical abilities.
The principle of Integrity means the ability to communicate honestly and take responsibility for one’s actions. In addition to this, it also entails that treat others with respect.
This principle implies that to care for others, one must care for self. Nurses must care for their patients, and they should develop relationship-centered interactions with their patients.
The principle of excellence fosters a spirit of inquiry and builds a climate of learning. However, to achieve excellence in nursing, one should also engage in continual improvement.
Nursing Ethical Principles
The following is a summary of the Nursing Ethical Principles that they must adhere to in their profession.
Nurses must treat all the patients equally and fairly when they provide care. Therefore it means that nurses must make fair decisions with regards to the health of each person regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual, religious beliefs, and so on.
Suppose a wounded person knocks the door of a nurse, with the hope that she will help him. But, that person belongs to the counterpart in war. Now, what will that nurse do- Will she help him for the sake of her Hippocratic Oath? Or will she ask him to leave, to retain her code of duty towards the motherland?
This principle may give rise to ethical issues when there is a conflict between patients and nurses and patients themselves. It means that nurses must take appropriate actions for their patients and protect them from any harm related to health. The principle of beneficence is essential since many ethical issues are arising in health care due to the sensitive nature of patients.
The Principle of Nonmaleficence means not harm patients. It is also directly related to nurses’ duty to protect the patient’s safety, as stated in the Hippocratic Oath.
For example, suppose a nurse does not return a phone call to a patient so that he may not get disturbed. In refusing to answer the call, the patient suffers from needless emotional and physical trauma. Therefore, this communication failure can harm the patient.
In this nursing ethical principle, nurses are accountable for their actions. Hence they must accept all the professional and personal consequences that occur from the nurses’ actions. In addition to this, society has given the nursing profession the right to regulate its practice. Thus at the societal level, nurses are empowered to make decisions related to nursing.
The principle of fidelity means keeping one’s promises. Nurses should be faithful and true to their professional promises. They must competently ensure safe care and provide quality care to their patients, no matter whether the patient is a cop or a murderer. It means that you cannot take advantage of your position as a nurse.
This nursing ethical principle means that medical assistants must tell the whole truth to the clients, even when they lead to patient distress. So, according to this principle, nurses must be utterly truthful with patients. It binds the patient and nurse as they seek to establish complementary treatment goals. Nurses must tell their patients everything about the diagnosis, benefits and disadvantages, cost of the treatment, and so on.
Therefore, knowledge of these nursing ethical principles is beneficial not only for healthcare providers but also for ordinary people; so that we know how nurses should treat us as a patient.