3 Insights for Prioritizing Nursing Ethics in Your Organization

nursing ethics

Nursing has been voted the most trustworthy profession in the country 21 years in a row. Trustworthiness in nursing is built on a foundation of honesty and ethical principles that are prioritized in the care of patients. Patient autonomy, beneficence, justice, and non-maleficence all converge on supporting the highest quality of care and optimal patient outcomes.

As the technology, interventions, and resources driving the healthcare system continue to evolve, nursing professionals must continue to develop professionally. Increasingly complex patient conditions combined with equally complex treatment modalities demand a continuous reinforcement of ethical principles.

With new advances in care come new potential ethical dilemmas. Topics like confidentiality, patient advocacy, and end-of-life care decisions push new boundaries. It is important for nurses to engage in continuing education opportunities related to ethical practices to manage unique situations that may challenge the status quo.

Ethical Standards in Nursing

The inclusion of ethical standards in nursing dates all the way back to the days of Florence Nightingale when nursing was elevated from a simple vocational activity to a profession. Along with society’s transition to the perception of nurses as ethical professionals, it became an expectation that those wishing to enter nursing must emphatically uphold a strong sense of nursing ethics.

Much of what guides modern principles of caring in nursing is rooted in guidelines set forth by the American Nurses Association (ANA). The Code of Ethics they developed is a non-negotiable ethical standard, and is an expression of nursing’s own understanding of its commitment to society. 

Nurses are introduced to the concept of ethical quandaries and how ethical decision-making is threaded into all aspects of nursing care during nursing school.

The application of the ethical standards in nursing to new conflicts and questions in healthcare calls for nursing professionals to continually develop their comfort and abilities in ethical decision-making regarding sensitive topics.

1. Confidentiality

The nurse’s duty to preserve patient confidentiality is reinforced as they enter the profession and throughout their career. Advances in technology and information sharing have created numerous mediums in which a lapse in confidentiality can occur, but the implications remain the same. 

Dictated through regulatory statutes, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), national standards were created to protect the sensitive information of patients. Health institutions and their workforce are held to the highest standard of protecting health information, facing stiff penalties if information is shared inappropriately.

Information sharing as it relates to a patient’s right to privacy is guided by both state regulations and organizational policies. It is imperative to know the standards that guide information sharing for healthcare organizations to remain free of any faults or penalties.

2. Patient Advocacy

Patients have the right to be informed and be active participants in the decision making related to their care. However, competence in decision making is a factor, and decision making around the care of someone who is not able to make decisions for themselves often results in nurses advocating for what is right.

Nurses are inherently attuned to the unique needs of their patients and appreciate ethical principles that recognize patients have the right to decide how they want to be treated. Continuously developing the knowledge and communication skills necessary for nursing ethics helps remind nurses that, although they may have good intentions, they must consider the autonomy of their patients above what they may feel is right to support truly patient-centered care and optimal patient experiences.

3. End-of-Life Care

Few aspects of nursing are more powerful than supporting a patient and their family through end-of-life care. It is easy for nurses to become personally overwhelmed as they try to comfort the patient and their loved ones through the transition. 

While the situation is incredibly challenging, nurses must still adhere to patient advocacy. Supporting the patient through their end-of-life decision making takes both knowledge of the policies and procedures guiding the process, and an appreciation of the patient’s autonomy and dignity as their foremost priorities.

This can sometimes push the limits of professional boundaries as nurses struggle to keep their personal feelings separate from their professional responsibilities. Nursing ethics related to end-of-life decision making again create a patient centered context that sets the stage for a healthy patient experience.

Improving Patient Care Through Prioritizing Nursing Ethics in Your Organization

The value of nursing ethics needs to be continuously refreshed, updated, and informed by professional development and continuing education. Putting ethical principles into practice strengthens as nurses gain experience and grow professionally. Reinforcing ethical standards throughout all aspects of care helps support an organizational culture centered around the patient and their experiences.

Nursing Ethics and Jurisprudence offered by #1 Premiere Continuing Education can teach you key concepts related to ethical practice in nursing. Support your organization in identifying ethical boundaries, offer guidance in ethical decision making, and develop your career with #1 Premiere Continuing Education. 

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