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What You need to Know about Nursing Ethics

As most medical professionals know, their ethics are just as important as their competence, especially when it comes to ethics in nursing. Nurses have more intimate contact with the patient than any other medical personnel.

The Code of Ethics developed by the American Nurses Association is imperative knowledge, but sometimes these broader standards become harder to discern on a day-to-day basis. In this article, some of the most prevalent areas of ethical dilemmas in nursing are addressed on a practical level.

Job Security and Ethics in Nursing

Even though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 587,000 new jobs for registered nurses (RNs) by 2016, ethics in nursing are still the first priority when it comes to a profession in nursing. If ethical principles in nursing are not followed, no matter how high in demand your job is, your career path may end up on the chopping block.

Ethics in nursing are clearly defined by codes and college classes in nursing ethics, but the shape that they take are malleable depending on the beliefs, values, and experiences of each individual nurse. Thus, a decision may vary according each individual situation.

No one likes having his or her credentials or ethics under fire, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between an ethical violation and a simple interaction with someone out of the nurse-patient realm. A good rule of thumb is to error on the side of caution anytime you are concerned.

This article addresses five of the most common issues of ethics in nursing.

•Whistle blowing
•Social Media and Privacy
•Prescription Drug Abuse
•Distorting or Withholding the Prognosis
•Science vs. Religion

Whistle blowing

The movies tend to portray whistleblowers as courageous heroes against the tobacco industry or fighting for child labor laws. The hero that stands up for the rights of employees and inevitably humanity is glorified.

Unfortunately, even with the extra provisions in the health care environment, whistle blowing is still an issue—one that is viewed with disdain by employers and in some cases the public. These issues usually come up due to one of three things:

•Fraud
•Incompetent practitioners
•Patient safety

Most nurses are faced with the decision to stand up for what is right leading to resignation or termination.
Remember that you are not alone. Organizations such as the Whistleblower Center and Freedom to Care exist in order to improve accountability of employers.

Social Media and Privacy

Nurses are required to adhere to a strict code of conduct in regards to privacy of the patient. Only in the case of bodily harm to another, abuse, or communicable diseases will the privacy of the individual patient be compromised.

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter encourage interaction concerning day-to-day events. Sadly, some RNs may get carried away on the network and break codes of ethics by sharing experiences at work. In this case, the line between cyberspace and reality is clearly drawn. Even if you are vaguely referring to something, you are in violation of ethical principles in nursing.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Statistics of drug abuse in the nursing field are hard to pin down. Oftentimes, drug addiction is treated with silence.

The American Nurses Association reports that approximately ten percent of nurses have a drug addiction. This figure means that as many as 300,000 RNs may abuse drugs. To put this in perspective, one in ten nurses in an office may abuse drugs. Approximately five to ten percent of nurses have reported trying patient medication at one time.

In April of 1998, The American Journal of Public Health reported that it was especially prevalent in critical care, oncology, and psychiatry.

Distorting or Withholding the Prognosis

Undoubtedly, when a patient asks for information about their medical condition, medical practitioners must tell them the reality of the situation; however, the patient’s family may have legal rights over the patient and choose not to tell them of a fatal or harmful prognosis.

What happens when the patient’s family and friends insist that revealing the prognosis is harmful to the patient?

Science vs. Religion

Several examples may conflict with science.

•Pro-choice vs. Pro-life
•Patient chooses an option that causes self-harm
•Religious beliefs that refuse blood transfusions or life support
•What happens when these beliefs and values are in disagreement with science?

Making a right or wrong choice can be both difficult and subjective. Make sure you protect yourself. Whenever there is any question about the proper way to handle a situation, contact your state association or seek help from upper management.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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