Ethical and Legal Issues

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Ethical and Legal Issues in Nursing
Over the last several decades, professional nursing has evolved and changed because of the influence of ethical and legal issues. There may be a variety of reasons for the changes. Examples in changes are advances in medical technology, legal changes about abortion and euthanasia, a push toward patient rights and litigation, and ever decreasing resources in which to provide nursing care. With all these influences affecting care, it has become increasingly difficult to have a true understanding of the direction nursing should take when faced with moral, ethical, and legal issues. Examination of personal moral and ethics along with utilization of available resources will no doubt aid nurses in sorting out feelings, strategizing for the patient and families, and providing guidance to give the best care possible. One resource available is the American Nurses Association, they have developed a code of ethics that should act as a guide in directing care and solving the ethical and legal dilemmas that surface. When applying the code of ethics resource; nurses can assist their patients families in making informed decisions as well as understand their own and their colleague’s responsibilities. By examining two case scenarios, the first involving end of life decisions, the second involving nursing conduct, the application of the code of ethics, the legal aspects, and the nurses responsibilities would be better understood. It is prudent to begin by examining the legal responsibilities of the nurse in the work setting. A Registered Nurse carries a legal responsibility in the work setting. A nurse has a commitment to the safety of the patient and must be aware of inappropriate practice. All nurses have ethical duties to the patients they serve. According to the American Nurses Association; a nurse “promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient” (ANA, 2001, p. 18). If an action is taken that poses harmful effect on a patient’s health this needs to be immediately reported to a higher authority within the workplace or if necessary to a suitable outside authority. A nurse must be accountable for his or her individual nursing practice. The nurse’s duty is to identify anyone with questionable practice. All workplaces have guidelines set in place for these types of events. A nurse should concern herself about repercussions when reporting unethical practice. A nurse should be familiar and compliant with his or her state’s nurse practice act and his or her workplace policies applicable practice standards of care for each clinical area. In the malpractice exercise the nurse was observed on several occasions violating standards of care. The occurrences were reported immediately through the chain of command which in this case was administration. After anecdotal notes were kept by the nurse, she should prepare written documentation, including the time and location of the incident and names of any witnesses. Time should be taken to think about the incident and write down all important points that come to mind, who and, when, she notified in administration and what was told to them. This way everything would be in order and accessible if you need to recall when answering questions. Be honest and truthful if there is something you cannot remember you, state that you do not recall. There should be no disregard during this process, it is the ethical and legal duty of a nurse, as the patient advocate, to stand up, and protect the patient. Every nurse is equally responsible for his or her own actions. Responsibility also carries over to patients not under her direct care, the obligation for all patients. The incident was reported in the correct manner and she kept personal anecdotal records and upheld her ethical duties. Personal and societal views play a major role in the way a nurse views a current ethical situation. As nurses...
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