Ethics in Action: Considering Provision 6 in the ANA’s Nursing Code of Ethics

The world of medicine and medical care has always been filled with change, but one constant is that nurses are committed to providing quality care while adhering to the profession’s ethical obligations.

It’s not always easy to know what to do in certain situations, but, fortunately, the Code of Ethics from the American Nurses Association (ANA) provides a core set of uniform ethical guidelines to follow. These guidelines are so universally embraced that when they were first introduced in 1950, the code became a model for organizations around the world.1

As a nurse, it’s important for you to not only be familiar with the principles outlined by the Code of Ethics, but also to be able to consider in advance situations that you may find yourself in during your career and think about how the Code would factor into your decisions. Pondering these scenarios before you encounter them in a real-life setting makes it simpler and faster to make the right decision when such a situation presents itself.

Throughout their studies, Loyola University New Orleans students have the opportunity to become well versed in the nuances of all nine provisions.

Considering Provision 6

The sixth provision states, “The nurse, through individual and collective effort, establishes, maintains, and improves the ethical environment of the work setting and conditions of employment that are conducive to safe, quality health care.”

This provision is important because it addresses the nurse's responsibility to go beyond caring for the physical well-being of the patient. An important part of good patient care is a health care facility where ethics are emphasized. All nurses must accept responsibility for the type of care given in the medical care facility where they're employed and must be aware of the ethical importance of their decisions.

It also means that if they see unsafe, inappropriate, or unethical practices being performed by another member of the staff, it is their moral obligation to address the situation.

Vexing Scenario
Consider the following situation: You’re a nurse manager and you notice there’s been an increase in the number of infections at your hospital. Since you’ve been learning more about the dangers of health care-associated infections, you want to educate others on your team so they can be better prepared to identify and manage such issues.

You create a plan to educate the existing nursing staff and new hires about HAIs. You learn that one of the easiest things to do is to implement new protocols for disinfecting equipment on a routine basis. You also know that HAI-causing bacteria are primarily transmitted through workers’ hands, so you want to teach health care workers more about good hand hygiene.

You’ve created a well-thought-out solution to a growing problem, and you’re excited about launching it. However, when you mention it to a colleague, she shoots down your idea. She points out that the administration may see it as a critique of their current practices. Your colleague cautions you against pursuing the idea at the risk of your career.

This creates a difficult quandary for you: You’ve seen firsthand the rise in infections and have read many journal articles about the problem. You understand that the Centers for Disease Control has identified HAIs as a threat to public safety2, and you know you can improve your hospital’s current system. What should you do? Is it better to stay quiet for fear of “rocking the boat,” or do you stick to your plan to provide more education and, in the process, enhance patient safety?

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.

If you are interested in earning an online nursing degree from Loyola University New Orleans, contact the admissions office.