Although morals and ethics may be viewed as interchangeable, ethics covers a process of determining right from wrong conduct whereas morals are personal principals that are acquired from life experiences, family, peer relationships, religion, culture, and even the law. Nurses advocate for the legal and ethical rights of patients as well as to protect the rights, dignity, and choices of the patient. Making ethically correct decisions and taking corrective actions based on the common fundamental moral principles of respect of others, self-determination, beneficence, non-malfeasance, honesty, confidentiality, keeping promises, and treating people fairly is the responsibility of every staff member regardless of position. Nurses address patient safety in all aspects of care.
For example, in the case of a diabetic patient, the nurse must first assess the patient, then teach the patient to perform the needed task until the nurse is satisfied that the patient understands the teaching and can perform the task independently. In other words, the nurse has the responsibility to ensure that the patient understands that insulin-dependent diabetes is a chronic and life-changing condition and that failure to comply with a prescribed regimen will have a negative impact on health. The patient must also understand that education and communication with family and close friends, whom they come in contact with, will be the key to help make any transition go smoothly for a productive and healthy life-changing experience. It is the nurse’s duty to act as the patient advocate in order to protect patient rights and ensure every patient receives the appropriate level of education and care for their diagnosis. Nurses must also ensure that patients are given the support and help they require in order to better cope with any change in lifestyle due to a diagnosis. Provision three of the Code of Ethics for Nurses stipulates that nurses promote, advocate for, and strive to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient (American Nurses Association 2010).
Prior to advancing my education along the nursing educational continuum, I was familiar with the Code of Nursing Ethics but not able to grasp the intricacies of this document. Today, I can comfortably associate provisions 1 through 9 to ethical situations I may encounter. For example, I encountered an Anesthesiologist who was persistent in sedating orthopedics patients scheduled for blocks before the OR nurse had a chance to interview the patient. By the doctor bypassing the safety net of the nurses, it placed patients in jeopardy and removed their rights to ask questions and vent any additional concerns they may have before surgery. The doctor’s unsafe ethical practice placed nurses in a potentially dangerous position; setting them up for failure if the surgery went wrong. It is the nurse’s duty to act as the patient advocate, protect the patient’s rights, and ensure every patient receives appropriate care.
American Nurses Association (2010). Nursing: scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD, American Nurses Association.