Understanding Ethics Violations in Nursing

The field of nursing has enormous potential to create ethical dilemmas for nursing professionals as a regular course of business – in ways many have yet to even consider.  Ethical dilemmas can happen while caring for a patient of any age – for any reason, at any time of day, in any medical setting or facility.

What is the Nurse’s Code of Ethics?

Nursing professionals look to the industry’s Nurse’s Code of Ethics as the written collection of ethical guidance for the industry’s professional behavior and standards of practice.

The Nurse’s Code of Ethics is compiled and maintained by the American Nurse Association (ANA). The Code of Ethics includes a series of nine ethical tenets with relevant standards of practice, plus examples of violations in the code of ethics for nurses.

The nurse’s Code of Ethics includes nine principles that describe what happens if a nurse violates the code of ethics. Each of these nine principles clarifies a specific violation. This clarification is then followed by guidance as to what happens when a nursing code of ethics is violated.

The American Nurse Association’s Code of Ethics includes the following nine ethical principles that must be followed to avoid nurse ethics violations –

  • Maintaining a patient’s dignity at all times.
  • Obtaining informed consent.
  • Making a patient’s interest a priority, above all else.
  • Being accountable and responsible for a patient’s care as well as any belongings entrusted to the nurse’s care.
  • Ensuring a patient’s safety.
  • The practicing of self-integrity as a nurse professional.
  • Promoting a valued health care environment for all patients and healthcare professionals.
  • Meeting continuing education requirements, as mandated by state officials.
  • Gaining global healthcare insight to maintain a comprehensive nursing outlook.
  • Maintaining an affiliation with a professional organization.

Additionally, it is essential to note what happens if a nurse violates the Code of Ethics as described by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) rules and regulations. It is noted that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) rules and regulations include additional penalties and consequences for those violations.

What Happens When the Nursing Code of Ethics is Violated?

Members of the nursing profession have a professional responsibility to their patients, to themselves, and to the nursing profession as a whole. This responsibility begins with the adherence principles set forth by the Nurse’s Code of Ethics.

However, as hard as nursing professionals try to avoid ethical dilemmas and violations, the reality is, ethics violations do occur.

So, the question is not whether or when a nurse will encounter a challenging ethical situation during a typical workday, but how a nurse will respond given the likelihood of the potential for when caring for patients.

If a nurse witnesses nursing code of ethics violations, clearly, they must understand how to solve the existing dilemmas before the situation worsens. However, a nurse must also report the incident to the appropriate oversight committee in the medical facility, or, at the very least, the nurse’s supervisor for smaller medical services companies.

Ethical dilemmas and examples of violations in the code of ethics for nurses need to be discussed as the very real teaching tools they are.

Understanding the nature of dilemmas by examining examples of violations in the code of ethics for nurses is so valuable to the teaching process that it is taught throughout nursing degree programs. The importance of understanding ethics is also evident when one realizes just how often a nursing professional is required to complete an ethics course as a part of their continuing education licensing requirements.

As much as nursing professionals try to do whatever is possible to avoid them, ethical violations do happen. What happens if a nurse violates the code of ethics depends on the specifics of the incident; however,  the event can have significant consequences to a nurse professional’s career. Depending on the violation and the state, a nurse may face discipline from their employer, the state, and even potential litigation.

How to Avoid Accidentally Committing a Nurse Ethics Violation?

A nursing professional is consistently recognized among the most trusted of all professions, which is an impressive honor when one considers just how quickly and unexpectedly an ethical dilemma can manifest in a medical setting.

According to the nursing codes of ethics, and common sense, it is a good idea for nurses to be prepared for ethical dilemmas at all times. And while school and experience that present themselves during a nurse’s everyday practice because nurses are regularly thrust into situations with competing values interests and resources.

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