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Table of Contents
The nursing profession encourages those who are involved in this field to act ethically, meeting obligations to serve patients without self-interest. Therefore, nurses discharge their duties in accordance with the best interests of others, advocating and practicing nursing ethics. They often face challenges relating to life and death. The code of ethics serves as a guide for nurses that encourages them to make the right decisions. This paper aims to discuss such guidelines and their importance in the nursing profession.
The code of ethics is essential part of the nursing profession because it functions as guidance for the population it serves. Its history started in 1896, when the American Nurses Association (ANA) discussed it for the first time (Butts & Rich, 2015). The first ANA code of ethics was utilized as an example of nursing services all over the world. Furthermore, it was improved and developed, providing a more profound understanding of the nursing profession. Since nursing education and practice were advanced in the following years, it was updated several times in accordance with social changes. However, its main ethical values have remained stable over the years. Existing findings reveal that the major transformation refers to the re-conceptualization of the understanding of the patient that has been initially viewed as an individual who stays at the hospital (Epstein & Turner, 2015). Later, this concept was broadened to patients’ families and communities where they reside.
Another change in the code was related to the fifth provision stressing that nurses had duties to others as to themselves (Morin, 2015). These involved personal integrity, professional growth, preservation of the wholeness of the nursing character, and the maintenance of competence. Moreover, professional organizations should support the health system, providing every individual with the right to receive healthcare. Eventually, the ANA House of Delegates accepted the code in 1950 and modified it several times (Ellis, 2014). Each change aimed to update the code in accordance with new complex nursing roles, functions, and relationships with other stakeholders. However, the most important changes deal with nursing central values.
The code of ethics plays an important role in society, but its value in the nursing profession is the most important one, because nurses should practice it in different challenging situations that require ethical decisions. It is a source of ethical decision-making in nursing management and everyday activity. Butts and Rich (2015) believe that an effective ethical code helps nurses to solve problems on different levels, such as societal, organizational, and clinical. Thus, it serves to resolve ethical dilemmas on a large scale that arise in society, within organizations, and healthcare environments. Admittedly, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders encounter ethical problems on the regular basis in their daily practice. Therefore, they should make proper decisions that can coincide with patients’ needs, and the code of ethics is a guideline in such a process.
First of all, on the societal level, healthcare professionals use the code of ethics to explain individuals the most urgent questions related to healthcare. For example, they decide how to make healthcare accessible for the wider public regardless of their socioeconomic status. Consequently, nurses are involved in this activity as educators, policy-makers, researchers, clinicians, and ethicists. As a result, they contribute to the preparation of new healthcare acts and guidance documents, making great efforts.
Secondly, on the organizational level, the code of ethics regulates financial concerns, shifts, the culture of safety, and the hospital ethical climate that impact the professional nursing practice (Epstein & Turner, 2015). It helps to avoid moral sufferings, oppressive environments, unclear role expectations, and so on. Researchers have found that the code of nursing ethics minimizes a poor ethical climate in organizations that is the main cause of poor job satisfaction and stress.
Thirdly, on the clinical level, ethics-related problems arise practically every day. Morin (2015) has found out that 60 percent of nurses recognize patients’ rights, while other 40 percent need more concern about their needs. Moreover, in some healthcare settings, patients lack autonomy and attention (Ellis, 2014). Therefore, the code of ethics should educate nurses on how to deal with this concern better, taking into consideration different ways to resolve these problems, such as communication, collaboration, and others.
Immediate questions that arise on the societal, organizational, and clinical levels can be solved in accordance with the code of nursing ethics. As a rule, nurses use management plans that consist of ethical considerations. These help them provide guidance to patients, advocating ones in different situations. Many complicated and controversial dilemmas may arise in the everyday healthcare environment, and the code of ethics allows nurses to find the right solution. Clearly, the latter should collaborate with physicians in many situations, because they need different provisions in their decision-making. The latest update of the code of ethics in nursing in 2015 encourages nurses to play primary roles in all healthcare settings, strengthening their position in social and healthcare policies. Moreover, this amendment identifies the role of nurses in the global healthcare system.
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The code of ethics in nursing is an important document that guides nurses in their everyday practice. It identifies what is right and wrong, providing them with the best understanding of patients’ rights. Using the code of ethics, nurses can find better solutions to problems and provide the highest level of healthcare.