Legal and Ethical Aspects in Nursing Practice

Ethical and moral values are of the upmost importance in healthcare delivery. Healthcare professionals need ethics as they must identify dilemmas in healthcare, and make good decisions based on their personal values and the governing laws (Nieswiadomy, & Bailey, 2018). For nurses who deal with ethical dilemmas every day, the foundation of their practice is ethics. As nurses take care of patients, they face ethical dilemmas some of which may conflict with the Code of Ethics or the personal ethics of the nurses. Nurses act as advocates for their patients and need to find a balance so that they deliver the best possible care to their patients. This reflective paper goes through the ethical aspects in nursing and how I have learned to incorporate them into my practice, the legal impact of different legal decisions, patient care teamwork and collaboration.

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Nurses need to have regulations and guidance just as all healthcare professionals do. For this purpose, the Code of Ethics was developed by The American Nurses Association (ANA). After this course, I know that the daily practice of nurses is guided by the Code of Ethics. It establishes the values and primary goals of the nursing profession (Nieswiadomy, & Bailey, 2018). As a nurses, I learned that I will need to follow the  has nine provisions of The Code that ensure that nurses: 1) treat all persons with compassion and respect, 2) are committed to their patients, 3) advocate for the rights and safety of their patients, 4) are accountable and responsible for the nursing practice, 4) take care of themselves ensuring that they are healthy, 5) safe and act with integrity, 6) work with others to improve the ethical environment they work in, 7) advance nursing and health policy through research and scholarly inquiry, 8) collaborate with other health profession to improve the overall health of individuals, and 9) practice nursing values and integrity and fight for social justice for all.

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Nurses require their patients to trust them so they can effectively do their work. To build and maintain trust, nurses need to be accountable for their practice, environment and patient safety. According to the ANA Code of Ethics, professional accountability is defined as “being answerable to oneself and others for one’s own actions.” (Butts & Rich, 2019) I realized that nurses need to be truthful not only when they act with integrity and in line with the ethical standards, but also when they deviate from their professional responsibility. For example when nurses give patients the wrong medication, they need to come clean immediately as it may jeopardize the lives of patients. Nurses deal with the challenge of continually evolving job demands. They have to contend with higher patient-nurse ratios, increased workloads and organizational requirements. I learned that nurses must avoid workarounds and instead use the proper protocols and processes linked to positive clinical outcomes.

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Nurses have a responsibility to promote a positive image of the nursing profession wherever they are. As they interact with their patients, peers and family, nurses can build a positive public image of their profession. The image that the public hold of nursing and nurses reflects to patients why they need nurses. For example, older people have a negative image of healthcare because they are not treated with the same respect as other patients. To change this negative image, nurses can correct this by getting rid of any bias they have and treat older patients with dignity and patience.

I know now that nurses the image that nurses present through their appearance, demeanor, self-respect and respect for others as well as the attention they give to professional boundaries demonstrated their professionalism. Nurses need to speak with confidence and self-assurance to make patients feel safe and confident in their ability to give them professional care. Nurses should introduce themselves to patients with their name and title. They must project a professional image by always wearing a clean, pressed uniform. Nurses need to promote a positive work environment by collaborating with other nursing and non-nursing staff.

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Nurses today need to have an understanding of the history of nursing. Understanding nursing history allowed me to have a more comprehensive knowledge of problems that are affecting the profession currently like pay shortage, regulations and education. Without knowing the foundation of these issues, nurses cannot address them effectively (Butts & Rich, 2019). Contemporary issues in nursing such as ethical and legal issues in healthcare, diversity, care transitions and informatics must all be considered by nurses as they interact with other healthcare professionals and patients. They have to act to provide safe, ethical and appropriate care to all their patients.

Everyone has personal values that affect their actions. Nurses however must ensure that their beliefs and values do not negatively influence the care they give their clients. I must allow patients to make decisions based on correct information and their own values and beliefs. Nurses need to make sure they do not show bias to clients who don’t share their beliefs (McEwen & Wills, 2017). They should treat their patients and peers with respect and integrity in spite of any perceived differences. My values should make me a better nurse; they should help me take care of patients with empathy and patients.

The healthcare industry presents workers with risks that are not present in other industries as a result of it being fast paced and high risk. Nurses and other healthcare professionals face personal, professional and environmental risks that affect their personal and professional behaviors (McEwen & Wills, 2017).  As a nurse, I will be exposed to challenges including like long shifts, consecutive days worked, learning to use advanced technological innovations, high workloads, older unbending nurses, familial disruptions, social disruptions, exposure to diseases, radiation and critical patients.

Healthcare professionals can have personal bias that leads to them intentionally or unintentionally giving patients from different backgrounds different forms of care. Nurses need to be aware of any bias they hold. They need to assess all their beliefs and values and whether they lead to any unconscious bias (McEwen & Wills, 2017). Acknowledging that they have bias can help them take action to solve the problem. If I ever believe that their bias will impact their ability to provide care to a patient, I must immediately report it. Nurses must make sure that patients receive the best possible care even if that means they need to shift the care of a patient to another nurse. For example, if a nurse realizes that they are giving less time to a Muslim patient, they need to report this to their superior to ensure that the patient can receive the care they need.

Vulnerable populations like very young people and older adults are the most vulnerable to diseases. Older people do not receive the best care; many healthcare professionals have negative attitudes about them which affects the quality of care they give (Butcher et al., 2018). Literature shows that healthcare professionals do not aim to preserve the dignity or autonomy of their vulnerable patients. They don’t try to minimize the stress of their patients and this can lead to the discomfort of patients. I believe that all patients deserve the highest quality of care irrespective of their age, values or background.

A patient’s health information including their health records should always be kept private and confidential. Respecting the privacy of patients promotes fundamental values that exemplify the ideals of personhood such as individuality, dignity and personal autonomy (Butcher et al., 2018). Patients need to trust that their personal information is kept confidential so that they can openly talk to their care givers about their health problems. I realize that privacy facilitates communication between physicians and patients. Protecting patient’s health information is essential as it improve quality of care, and prevents economic harm and discrimination.

Interprofessional and intra-professional collaboration is not only about nurses and doctors sharing information and communicating efficiently, it requires all the members of a care team to work together to provide the best care possible to a patient. For this collaboration to be effective, all members of the teams need to have interprofessional and intra-professional available to them at all times (Butts & Rich, 2019). The information is also used to resolve any ethical struggles that may be present. Effective interprofessional and intra-professional information can foster respect within care teams as leaders put their egos aside to care for their patients.

Nurses have a legal and ethical duty to ensure the patients safety and wellbeing. If nurses are in situations where their peers or physicians are acting in a manner that endangers the wellbeing of their patients (Nieswiadomy, & Bailey, 2018). They need to report any unsafe, illegal or unethical practices to the administration. Nurses must be advocated for their patients and make sure that they are well taken care of. For example nurses that note that a doctor prescribes his patients opioids even when it is unnecessary should report the incidents to the administration.

Healthcare practices are always evolving. Nurses must ensure that they strive to excel in their practice to provide the best care possible for their patients. Nurses have to be experts in their field and should be aware of any new techniques that will make them better care givers. I realized that becoming a nurse means lifelong learning. Lifelong learning equips nurses with critical thinking and problem solving skills that help them resolve issues they encounter while caring for their patients. Professional engagement allows nurses to excel in their profession and attain professional development. Professional development needs to be an ongoing process throughout a nurse’s career.

Nursing is all about taking care of others. Nurses however forget or are reluctant to take care of themselves. They may find it difficult to find self-care routines they like and that can be assimilated into their lifestyles. Yet nurses need to take care of their personal health and find ways of self-renewal as it can help them cope with exhaustion and tension associated with their work. By ensuring their personal health and combating stressors from their practice, they can provide better care for their patients (Butcher et al., 2018).

Nurses should always act in a moral and ethical manner. They must uphold the standards of the nursing profession even when they aren’t within hospital walls. If they find that they have acted unethically, immorally or illegally, nurses must hold themselves accountable by reporting their misconduct to their supervisors or to the administration (Butts & Rich, 2019). Nurses should be professional no matter how long their shift has been ensuring that their appearance and demeanor exemplify the values of nursing. Nurses should ensure the privacy and confidentiality of all of their patients’ records. They should pursue excellence in their practice, and hold lifelong learning and professional engagement as major values and goals. Nurses learn throughout their practice, they learn newer more efficient ways of caring for their patients, better ways of managing their time, better techniques to do their jobs. They must strive to achieve excellence as nurses, promoting the health of all their patients.

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