Ethical Principles in Nursing

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There are five principles to ethical nursing. The first principle, nonmaleficence, or do no harm, it is directly tied to a nurse's duty to protect the patient's safety. This principle dictates that we do not cause injury to our patients. A way that harm can occur to patients is through communication failures. These failures can be intentional or as a result of electronic or human error. Failing to convey accurate information, giving wrong messages, and breaking down of equipment, can cause harm to patients. Some of these communication problems may certainly occur whether a patient is at a neighborhood clinic or 500 miles away, but distance and high reliance on electronic technology make close examination of communication and ethical issues vital. Examples of questions that need further investigation include: What type of back-up exists for equipment failure? What work can and cannot be delegated? The principle of nonmaleficence is considered before new treatments are tried on patients. We ask ourselves, and then patients and families ask us, "Can this harm the patient?" We should ask this same question before we initiate new practices for nursing? While legal and financial issues are routinely discussed, ethical issues are not. Unless open discussion of ethical issues occurs, the harm to patients may not be clear until nurses are practicing. The second principle is beneficence and is at the heart of everyday nursing practice. Each of the following forms of beneficence requires taking action by helping to prevent harm, removing harm and promoting good. The principle of beneficence may bring attention to ethical issues when there is conflict between what is good between nurses and patients, between patients and organizations, between patients themselves. Differences that may have ethical implications include: financial reimbursement, approved services, different laws on reporting sexually transmitted diseases or abuse, and protocols on who nurses can accept...
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