Nurses have a tremendous amount of responsibilities incorporated in their duty of care and they are challenged with legal and ethical issues on a daily basis. Examples of legal and ethical issues in nursing may refer to topics such as medication administration, consent and abortion just to name a few. To protect the patient, oneself and the health professional team, it is, as for any health professional, crucial to gain sound knowledge and understanding of the legal and ethical aspects in health care. It is therefore important to follow up incidents that may arise carefully and properly. Law and ethics are to different factors but they are tied together in any given situation (Australian Nursing & Midwifery Council, 2008). The scenarios chosen for this paper will be analysed and looked at from a legal and ethical perspective. Furthermore, implementations of problem solving strategies in order to solve these types of issues will be discussed. Scenario A
A friend of yours, another nursing student, Melanie Anderson, posts a public message on Facebook about her clinical placement and caring for a person who has been injured in a motor vehicle accident. The message includes information about the patient’s clinical status and the ways that the patient’s family and friends are responding. Identify and analyse any ethical and/or legal problems with this. Also discuss what you should do when you see Melanie’s message.
This scenario illustrates Melanie, who is a nursing student, who has publicly announced a patient’s clinical status via the social networking site known as Facebook. This immediately becomes a both legal and ethical issue - breaching of confidentiality since Melanie has shared the patient’s information without his/hers consent. According to Sastow & Inman (2008) confidentiality is defined as the right of an individual to have any personal and medical information kept private and securely and is not to be given out publicly without the individual’s consent. It also states that in health care or hospital circumstances, only the health care professionals and people involved with the patient may use this type of information. The information regarding patient’s information such as current and past health history, reason for searching care, medical condition and social status will not be released unless given the consent from the patient to do so. Confidentiality is also in place for other important reasons such as the development of trust between the health care professional and the patient. This will allow a more open and honest relationship between the nurse and the patient. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council (2008) also indicate the importance of accountability that the health professional is personally responsible for when dealing with a patient’s confidentiality. This in turn will hopefully comfort the patient to be as open and honest as possible when revealing information about themselves to the nurse. When informing a patient about confidentiality it also allows reassurance for the patient that whatever information he or she is sharing with the nurse of health professional is not allowed, by law, to be breached. This will, again, create a more true, honest and open relationship between the two. When linking these aspects to Scenario A, it is evident that what Melanie has done is completely wrong and she is immediately accountable for the entire disclosure of the patient’s information. It has become a both legal and ethical matter. Actions may be taken against Melanie and the consequences can be devastating for both her and the patient, whose information has been given out (Staunton & Chiarella, 2008). Melanie is still a nursing student but this doesn’t change the fact that she is accountable for her actions. She might have been misinformed on the importance of confidentiality and privacy in the health care setting. If so, it is something that should be addressed...
References: Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council. (2008). Code of Professional Conduct for Nurses in Australia. Retrieved October 4, 2011 from http://www.nrgpn.org.au/index.php?element=ANMC+Code+of+Ethics
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council
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