Promise vs. Duty in Nursing

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Promise vs. Duty in Nursing

James Mele RN

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary (1997), the definition of a promise is “a pledge to do or not to do something specified.” For the sake of not sounding like a bunch of politicians who seldom keep their rhetorical promises, I think we should change the word to something more honorable such as to duty. Duty, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary (1997) is “conduct or action required by one's occupation or position”. That is much more fitting. Promises can be made and broken by individuals. A duty is inherent in the position one holds. Promises are a voluntary commitment. A duty is an ethical standard or obligation that applies to a position or occupation. Dorman and Middaugh, (2009) stated that “repeated gaps between promises and performance create doubt, distrust, and finally cynicism in the public”. Instilling a sense of duty in a profession is much different. I have a duty to treat patients under my care with dignity and respect. I do not have to promise to do this. It is inherent in my position and I need to do this. This is stated nicely by the International Council of Nurses, (2006) “inherent in nursing is respect for human rights, the rights to life and choice, to dignity and to be treated with respect”. The public wants care givers with a sense of duty, not a promise. Otherwise we may fall into the same category of politicians that cannot be trusted. I think that this is important in order to maintain the image that nursing currently has as a caring and trustworthy profession (Gray, 1999). Having a sense of duty links directly to the American Nurses Association (ANA) code of ethics as my nursing professional obligation or if you wish, promise to patients, community and society (see Nursingworld.org, Code of Ethics).

References

Dorman,D., & Middaugh, D.(2009). Promise keeping: do we keep our promises. Medsurg Nursing, 18(1).
“Duty.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary...
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