16 Strategies Nurses Use to Uphold Ethical Standards and Principles in Patient Care

Nurse help her patient

It’s no secret that nurses have to deal with complicated ethical dilemmas daily. It can be challenging to know what the best course of action is when you’re looking at potential ethical violations, as well as balancing the demands of patient care.

Nurses work on very intense, emotionally charged, and stressful occasions. As such, ethical issues are among the most common dilemmas nurses face daily.

The demands of patient care and proper nursing standards conflict in some cases. With that in mind, nurses uphold ethical principles by putting the needs of patients first when assessing treatment options.

Nurses also maintain a sense of professionalism and decorum when working with others by abiding by professional guidelines and standards. When professionally developing oneself as a nurse, attending to the construct that ethical decisions lie along a continuum is essential.

The first step towards upholding ethical principles recognizes that patients do not always receive proper care. Nurses must ensure they provide the highest level of care possible for patients, even if that means their schedule gets compromised in order to do so.

The Nurse’s Role

The nurse’s role is to take care of the patient. Sometimes this can be at the bedside, or it may include a long-term position that requires constant coordination with other disciplines and health providers.

The nurse’s presence, knowledge, and skills are then applied by policies and procedures, which should align with best practice guidelines. They should reduce suffering and meet the patient’s physical and psychological needs.

This may involve ensuring the patient is comfortable, providing education and support, and helping coordinate care. The nurse must also be aware of any pertinent legal and ethical issues.

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What Exactly is an Ethical Principle in Nursing?

An ethical principle in nursing is an idea, set of values, or sense of conviction that guides individual decisions and actions. Nursing ethics relates to moral philosophy and the study of morality.

Ethical nursing principles exist in several sources, including professional codes, legislative acts and decisions, court cases and legal opinions, and teachings from religions or philosophical systems.

These principles are essential for nurses as they can provide direction during complex decision-making processes when no other help is available. Ethical principles also give nurses insight into how and why they should or should not act in specific situations.

While these guidelines may vary from person to person, there are several common principles that many healthcare professionals share.

What is the Source of Ethical Standards and Principles in Nursing?

The source of ethical standards and principles in nursing is the American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics. This code of ethics establishes a set of values, regulations and standards to guide the practice of nurses and promote accountability for the quality of patient care.

The belief is that nurses must promote health, prevent sickness and safeguard the health and rights of those in their care. The code guides nurses on ethical issues and is the basis for professional nursing practice.

The ANA Code of Ethics is supplemented by additional standards of practice issued by specialty nursing organizations. These specialty standards are there to provide further guidance for nurses.

Strategies Nurses Use to Uphold Ethical Standards and Principles

Here are some primary strategies nurses use to uphold ethical standards and principles while balancing patient care demands.

Respect Patient Rights

Respect for patient rights is a core strategy for nurses to uphold ethical standards and principles. Nurses must recognize, support and protect their patients’ autonomy, privacy and confidentiality rights.

Nurses should also strive to provide patient-centered care, in which they listen to and respond to the patient’s needs while recognizing their values, beliefs and preferences.

Additionally, nurses should acknowledge their duty to advocate for the patient’s best interests, even if it does not align with their values or beliefs. It includes supporting equitable access to care, recognizing and responding to cultural and social determinants of health, and promoting patient safety.

Nurses can better balance patient care demands while providing quality and compassion by respecting patient rights to uphold ethical standards and principles.

nurse care the old woman

Communicate Effectively

Effective communication is essential for nurses to uphold ethical standards and principles while balancing patient care. Nurses must communicate effectively with their patients, colleagues and healthcare administrators professionally and respectfully.

It includes being clear and concise when speaking and listening carefully to ensure understanding. Nurses must also ensure that all communications are confidential.

In addition, it is important for nurses to recognize cultural and language differences and use appropriate language and communication strategies to ensure patients feel respected and understood. They should use open and honest communication to build trust with patients and set clear expectations for care.

Promote Patient Safety

Patient safety is a top priority for nurses, as it is critical to upholding ethical standards and patient care principles. Nurses must ensure they follow all safety protocols, such as hand hygiene.

Additionally, nurses should be aware of any potential risks to their patients, as well as any potential sources of harm that could affect their health outcomes. They should be mindful of any medications or treatments that may cause damage and take steps to avoid them.

Nurses should also be aware of and strive to implement the latest evidence-based practice guidelines. By doing so, nurses can help promote patient safety and ensure the highest quality of care.

Ensure Informed Consent

Informed consent is a strategy nurses use to uphold ethical standards and principles while balancing patient care demands. This strategy is an integral part of the nurse-patient relationship.

It involves informing the patient about their diagnosis and treatment options and obtaining their consent before proceeding with any medical interventions. Informed consent also informs the patient about the potential risks and benefits of the proposed treatment and other relevant information.

By obtaining informed consent, nurses demonstrate respect for the patient’s autonomy. This can help nurses balance patient care demands while upholding ethical standards and principles.

Maintain a Professional Attitude

Maintaining a professional attitude includes treating patients with respect and dignity, following hospital protocols and regulations, and keeping a professional demeanor when interacting with patients.

Professionalism also includes maintaining patient confidentiality and privacy, responding to patient needs promptly, and providing quality patient care.

Nurses must also be aware of their limitations and seek help from colleagues and supervisors when necessary. By practicing professionalism, nurses can ensure they adhere to the highest ethical standards and provide their patients with the best possible care.

Follow Professional Codes of Conduct

Professional codes of conduct provide a framework for nurses to make ethical decisions. These codes help nurses recognize, analyze and resolve ethical dilemmas in a way consistent with their values, beliefs and principles of professional nursing.

By following professional codes of conduct, nurses can uphold ethical standards and principles while balancing patient care demands. They can also help ensure safe, effective, and ethical patient care while protecting the nurse’s interests.

This strategy can help nurses maintain a sense of integrity and professionalism in their practice and ensures that they are acting in the best interests of their patients.

Respect Patient Autonomy and Confidentiality

Respect for patient autonomy and confidentiality are core ethical principles for nurses. Respect for freedom includes allowing patients to make decisions about their care, understanding their choices and respecting those decisions even if they differ from the nurse’s opinion.

Confidentiality means maintaining the privacy of a patient’s medical information and keeping it secure. These two principles help ensure that nurses provide quality care while upholding ethical standards and regulations.

Exercise Sound Clinical Judgment

Sound clinical judgment involves nurses using their knowledge and experience to make decisions that are in the patient’s best interest, considering their values, beliefs and preferences.

It also involves making decisions by considering the patient’s circumstances as well as relevant ethical principles and legal requirements. Additionally, it involves assessing the nurse’s values and beliefs and the patient’s to provide the best possible care.

By exercising sound clinical judgment, nurses can make informed decisions about the care they provide and ensure that their practice is ethical and in line with the best interests of their patients.

Practice Evidence-Based Care

Practice evidence-based care involves using current evidence to guide decisions and interventions while considering the patient’s unique needs, values, and preferences.

The strategy helps patients receive the best care possible while adhering to professional, ethical codes and standards. It can also inform policy and practice decisions and ensure that changes are evidence-based and effective.

Additionally, this strategy helps nurses balance patient care demands by allowing them to make informed decisions based on the most current information and evidence.

Treat Colleagues with Respect

Respectful interactions with colleagues build trust and create a safe and supportive environment for nurses, helping them provide the best possible care to their patients.

Respectful exchanges also help nurses build positive working relationships, which can improve communication and collaboration between colleagues.

It also allows nurses to respect better their colleagues’ autonomy and decisions, which is essential in upholding the ethical principles of freedom and non-maleficence. Furthermore, respecting colleagues helps foster a culture of professionalism and demonstrates a commitment to ethical practices.

Maintain a Commitment to Lifelong Learning

By committing to lifelong learning, nurses can stay up to date on the latest evidence-based practices, trends and legal and ethical considerations in healthcare.

This knowledge enables them to provide the best possible care to their patients while ensuring that their actions are moral and in line with nursing principles.

Additionally, by engaging in continuous learning, nurses can improve their professional skills and develop the capacity to adapt to changing healthcare environments. Ultimately, lifelong learning can help nurses to serve their patients better and uphold the highest standards of ethical practice.

Advocate for the Patient’s Best Interests

Advocating for the patient’s best interests is a practice that nurses use to ensure their patients receive the best possible care. It means that nurses must put the patient first so that the they get the appropriate level of care that meets their needs.

Nurses must be aware of the laws and regulations regarding patient care and consider the patient’s wishes and opinions to ensure that any decisions are in the patient’s best interest.

They must also strive to provide a safe and comfortable environment for their patients and maintain the highest standards of professional practice. The strategy can involve speaking up for the patient when they cannot speak for themselves and advocating for their best decision-making interests.

Respect Cultural and Religious Diversity

Valuing cultural and religious diversity involves understanding, respecting and responding to the needs of patients from different cultural, religious and spiritual backgrounds.

Nurses should be open and knowledgeable about the beliefs and values of their patients and engage in dialogue with them to ensure that the care provided is in line with their needs.

This can include taking into consideration any specific cultural or religious requirements and working with patients to provide a tailored approach to care.

It also involves being sensitive to a patient’s cultural and spiritual needs and ensuring that any medical decisions are made with the patient’s consent and in line with their cultural and religious beliefs.

By valuing cultural and religious diversity, nurses can ensure that their care is ethical, respectful and according to the patient’s wishes.

Engage in Continuing Education

Continuing education helps nurses stay current on the latest advances in medicine, patient care and ethical standards and reminds them of their profession’s legal and ethical responsibilities.

It also provides nurses with the necessary tools and resources to confidently make ethical decisions in their practice. Continuing education can also allow nurses to acquire new skills and knowledge to help them in their approach, network with their peers and stay connected with the nursing community.

Further education also allows nurses to review the ethical principles and standards that guide their practice. It can help nurses stay current on evidence-based practice and research, which can inform their decisions and patient care and ensure their practice is grounded in the best available evidence to uphold ethical standards and principles.

Other benefits of continuing education include the development of leadership and managerial skills and the ability to network with other nurses and collaborate with various stakeholders.

Remain Current with Ethical Principles and Legal Standards

Remaining current with ethical principles and legal standards includes staying up to date with the latest research and best practices as well as understanding relevant regulations, laws and standards of practice.

It also involves staying informed of changes to the law and any ethical principles that may affect a nurse’s patterns. Staying up to date allows nurses to be better prepared to handle any moral dilemmas or difficult situations that may arise in their practice.

By keeping up with the latest information, nurses can be more aware of their professional responsibilities and obligations to their patients as well as their ethical and legal duties and responsibilities. It also allows nurses to better understand their role in advocating for their patients and promoting ethical decision-making.

Practice Empathy

Empathy is a powerful tool for nurses to use when upholding ethical standards. It allows nurses to view their patients from the patient’s perspective and recognize the unique needs of each individual.

By understanding and responding to patients’ emotions, nurses can provide compassionate care and create an environment that promotes trust and respect. It can go a long way in creating a trusting relationship between the patient and the nurse. In addition, it helps the nurse provide care tailored to the patient’s individual needs.

Empathy also allows nurses to recognize and act on ethical dilemmas, such as a patient’s right to autonomy or privacy. By adopting an empathetic practice, nurses can make decisions that respect the rights of their patients while still providing quality, ethical care.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the complexity of ethical dilemmas and the forces at work that influence the profession is essential. To maintain the integrity of moral dilemmas, nurses need to be aware of their own decisions and take control of them to find solutions.

Furthermore, nurses must determine how their values align with moral principles or social norms in order to enact the best possible patient care. To do this, nurses must be open to communication with patients and colleagues, actively listen to their perspectives and be respectful and honest when making decisions.

Finally, nurses must consider the legal implications of their decisions and seek resources for guidance. They must be mindful of their own emotional and psychological health levels to ensure that their decision-making processes are not compromised.


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