The demands of today’s fast-changing health care environment can pose challenges to nurses, who are called upon daily to make critical decisions that affect patient care. In addition to relying on their own personal moral standards, nursing professionals can turn to the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) Code of Ethics, which provides core ethical guidelines to follow.i
While it’s important for nurses to know the Code of Ethics, it’s just as crucial that they think carefully about each provision and how they would call upon the Code in response to different scenarios. In this way, nurses can make ethical decisions quickly and confidently, knowing they are doing the right thing. Throughout their studies, Loyola University New Orleans students have the opportunity to become well versed in the nuances of all nine provisions.
Provision 7 of the Code of Ethics states: “The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy.”
Considering Provision 7
The provision centers on the need for nurses to look beyond the care of individual patients at the bedside and take an active role in the advancement of the nursing profession through contributions to practice, education, administration and knowledge development. There is a direct link between the patient care provided by an individual nurse and the responsibility of each nurse to advance the profession to ensure the consistent delivery of high-quality, safe care. From staff nurses to clinical nurse specialists to nurse educators, all nurses and nursing leaders should strive to expand the scope of nursing knowledge and incorporate evidence-based nursing practices and policies at every level.
Nurses can fulfill their ethical responsibility to advance the profession in a number of ways, depending on their interests, skill sets, and educational background. Scholarly inquiry runs the gamut from conducting nursing research to reading nursing journals to stay abreast of new developments in the field. Nurses can influence the development of professional standards by serving as nurse educators working with peers at their health care organizations or with nursing students at universities. They can influence nursing and health policy by serving on advisory boards or writing an editorial for local media. The opportunities to advance the nursing profession are as diverse as nursing itself.
Consider the following situation: A nurse manager of a surgical unit supervises nurses with diverse educational and work experiences. In the past six months, she has documented that the unit’s rate of complications, infections, and length of stay for post-op patients has been increasing. She also has overheard staff conversations debating the value of reading nursing journals in order to stay up to date with evidenced-based practices. Some nurses are eager to bring new knowledge to the bedside. Other nurses, though, discount the worth of scholarly endeavors, claiming years of work experience are the best teacher. The rift between those who want to embrace new knowledge and those happy with the status quo has begun to impact staff morale. In keeping with Provision 7, what should the nurse manager do? How can she meet her ethical obligation to advance the nursing profession and patient care while building a cohesive and unified staff?
In the Loyola University New Orleans School of Nursing degree programs, students have the opportunity to consider such scenarios. As part of their coursework, they study legal and ethical issues in the health care industry, with an emphasis on dealing with the practical dilemmas that they may one day face.