Example Essay on Professional and Ethical Practice in Nursing

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN, 1981) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC, 2004; 2008) described the word accountability as one’s responsibility to somebody or for something, in this case nurses are accountable to the patients, the employers and the NMC principles. Responsibility is being accountable for one’s action or omission to patients in our care. Whereas Sempre & Cable argued that responsibility relates to one’s accountability to what one does and accountability is one responsible to the consequence of what one does (2003). Nurses are accountable to the NMC which legislates and regulates all nurses, midwives and specialist community nurses in the United Kingdom and it is the responsible of all registrant to abide to its principle. Therefore, the author will weave the tapestry of this essay to demonstrate that the NMC (2008) guidance may appear simple but it is a difficult responsibility to fulfil by nurses in practice. As the guideline relates to the first paragraph of the principles of The Code, firstly, trust in relation to caring of patients’ health and wellbeing will be defined and the discussion will posit around the kind of treatment received by patients as individuals without discrimination, and respecting their dignity and be an advocate for them whilst they are in the nursing care. Secondly, respecting their right to confidentiality as is of paramount importance and it is enshrined in the Data Protection Act (1998) and also the Human Right Act (1998) which makes it legal. Confidentiality will be defined and note that patients information cannot be disclosed without the patients’ consent. Thirdly, for nurses to respect the dignity of patients, to advocate for them and respect their confidentiality nurses must be able to use therapeutic communications to get the necessary information and nurses must be able to communicate with other health professionals to support the patients in their care. Nurses must be able to communicate with the patient in a language that is understood by the patient. Fourthly, the principle of ethics in the discharging of the roles of nurses is important to complete the jigsaw of this complex essay. Lastly, to bring theory into practice by using the five steps of nursing process model (Christensen and Kenney, 1990, 1995; Roper, Logan & Tierney, 1976; Pearson et al, 2005) will be explained by using the framework of the Clinical Governance (Department of Health (DH), 1999) as the benchmark for quality practice to explain the reason that it is a difficult responsibility for nurses to balance the different agendas.

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Hence, before an attempt is made to answer the topic of this essay theory of nursing is explained and the definition of nursing is postulate for the reader to understand the direction that this topic will be taken. Theory provides a template for practice as it provides the embodiment of nursing philosophies, presenting the beliefs, understandings, and purposes of nursing. It also guides research and education. A theory helps the understanding of nursing by the general public (Seedhouse, 1986). Theory is also a thinking process especially when a nurse is reflecting on the nursing process (assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation and evaluation) of a patient (Bell & Duffy, 2008). Peplau (1952) argued that nurses use therapeutic communication as a way to tease out information from the patients in order that nurses gain the patients trust and they are treated with respect and dignity. (, patients most of the time are seeing the nurse for the first time,) Orem’s (1971) used the self-care model where he stated that nurses used the continuous self-care action to care for patients when the patients’ self-care exceeds their own abilities to meet their needs (self-care deficit). Though Horan et al, (2004); Rogers (1970, 1980), Neuman (1980) and Parse (1987) stated that nursing is both an art and science whereby the main aim is to help patient to achieve biological system homeostasis equilibrium after an illness and to sustain their health and wellbeing not forgetting their respect and dignity. RCN stated that “the use of clinical judgement in the provision of care to enable people to improve, maintain, or recover health, to cope with health problems, and to achieve the best possible quality of life, whatever the disease or disability, until death” (RCN, 2003 pg 3).

Health and wellbeing, respect patient’s dignity

The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that health is a human state of biopsychosocial wellbeing in the absence of illness. Seedhouse (1995) argued that the WHO definition is too broad and difficult to achieve and it does not take into consideration the different definition of illness. Roper et al (2000) argued that health is an important factor in the model for nursing. Therefore, one of the roles of nursing is not only caring for ill patients but the healthy clients especially when doing health promotion. Furthermore, patients must be treated as individuals and their dignity respected irrespective of whatever cultural and ethnical background, gender, age, sexual orientation and physical and or mental abilities or disabilities they should not be discriminated against. Peplau (1952) stated that therapeutic communication is a vital aspect of health care and it enables nurses to form a partnership with patients and it is central to their quality of care thereby their quick recovery. In communicating with the patients nurses are able to gain insight into patients’ personal details that they would not normally tell to another person thereby a trust is constructed. As a result of the trust then the nurses and patients relationship is born and it is through respect. Dignity of the patients is paramount for that respect to be fostered further. Nurses should bargain with the patients to identify their preferences regarding care and respecting these within the limits of the professional practice. Fern (2007) noted that a patient may become aggressive especially after post-operative procedure as a novice nurse are into the nursing goal might be able to note vital signs that the patient is in distress than an experience of the nurse will. Gallagher and Seedhouse (2002) argued that patient may feel undignified if they are not communicate to properly, embarrassed and degraded.

Nurses are accountable for any actions or omissions if they do not respect the dignity of patients (NMC, 2008; Woolrich, 2008; Burnard, 1997). The NMC (2008) principles clearly state that and it is further reinforced by different National Health Service (NHS) policies such NHS Plan DH, 2000 which has increased the role of nurses without increasing the number of nurses employed. This it itself is causing more complaints among the. – Dignity in Care (DH, 2006)

Cultural diversity can cause problem (Baillie et al, 2009)

Caring for different cultural can be problematic since on a ward that might be patients from different ethnic background and one have to be mindful of their preferences ()

Maintaining the dignity of patients is not always easy as each patient has their own agenda and sometimes being sick make people behave abnormally.

Patient must be treated kindly and considerately. Nurses should act as an advocate for those in their care by helping them to access relevant health and social care information and to support them.

Confidentiality and its responsibility for nurses and patients

Patients’ right to confidentiality is of paramount importance and is enshrined in the Data Protection Act (1998), furthermore, it is in the Human Right Act (1998) which sets the right of an individual. Confidentiality is defined as . Any employee of the NHS has the confidentiality guidelines written in their contract of employment irrespective of what type of job the employee is doing. The employers have a safeguard of confidentiality written in each staff employed in the NHS

Ethics and its moral dilemma when caring for patient’s health and wellbeing

Ethics are standards of behaviour which nurses are expected to act on when caring for patients and others (Tschudin, 1986; Edwards, 1996; Holland et al, 2008; Kozier et al, 2008) whereas moral is one’s personal standard of the difference between right and wrong in conduct, character and attitude. Ethics are found in the NMC Code of conduct and nurses are accountable for their ethical conduct (Kozier, 2008). Ethics and moral are sometimes used interchangeably in some literatures. Beauchamp & Childress (1989, 2009) developed a framework stated that there are four moral principles that nurses can work under. They are autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence and justice as explained below.

Autonomy states that a patient is an individual and his/her wishes should be respected eventhough the decision runs contrary to our own ethical issues.

Nonmaleficence the patient should not be placed – do no harm – it could happen intentionally, placing someone at harm risk or unintentionally causing harm.

Beneficence – doing good – implement actions that benefit patient and their supports person.

Justice – fairness – justifying one action against another action.

(Nursing theorists may say when a nurse in faced with a dilemma the decision should be based on two ethical models – utilitarianism – one that brings the most good and the least harm for the greatest number of people or deontological theory – action is not judged on its consequences but is judged on whether it agrees with moral principles)

Ethics can sometimes provide moral dilemmas that nurses face when caring for a patient especially if the patient has been diagnosed with an incurable disease whereby the family and their employer do not want it to be disclosed to the patient. In such circumstances the conflict it between ethics and moral dilemma that is enshrined in the NMC (2008) Code of Ethics their role as nurses and moral duty to the patient who wants to know the truth and the patient’s health and wellbeing (Benjamin & Curtis, 1992; Edwards, 1996). Thompson et al (2006) stated that ethics and moral cannot work in a vacuum further added that in order to justify moral judgement nurses need prior knowledge of ethical theory. Beauchamp and Childress (2009) added that one needs understanding of moral theory to be able to justify ethical decisions. This demonstrates the extra burden imposed on nurses thereby finding themselves constrained by the difficult responsibilities placed on them to fulfil the NMC (2008) Code of Ethics furthermore those of their employers.

(Nurses must have professional accountability and responsibility regardless of how simple or difficult the task may, they are personally accountable for their practice and are answerable for any action and omission committed whilst discharging their role. In this case responsibility refers to the accountability or liability associated with the duties undertaken by nurses).


Definition of important words

Before the essay tapestry is weaved some words definition are given to set the tone whether the NMC (2008) guidance appears simple and/or is it difficult responsibility to fulfil in nursing practice.

The Essence of Care (DH, 2003) is an NHS Policy helping health practitioners to take a patient-focused and structured approach to sharing and comparing practice.

Trust – Bell & Duffy suggested that being trustworthy is difficult as patients, peers, managers have different expectations on the definition of trust (2009). Trust is therefore defined as ….

Wilson argued that public has lost trust in nursing care due to the fact that they expect modern medicine could cure every possible ill and secondly someone has failed to deliver the service they were mandated to deliver (2002).

Health and wellbeing – health is defined as the absence of illness with complete physical, mental and social wellbeing (World Health Organisation (WHO), 1946; Seedhouse, 1986) and wellbeing being the (suggested) state of perfection (Wilmot, 2003)

Dignity is defined as the way an individual perceives and acquires values (privacy, respect and trust), sets standards according to these values and from these standards judges what is acceptable influenced by the individual cultural upbringing (Haddock, 1996; Seedhouse, 2000; DH, 2000; Matiti, 2002; DH, 2004; Matiti et al, 2007).


Advocacy –

Griffith & Tengnah (2008) stated that NMC codes places both a normative and positive rules on the registrant (Normative rule – what a person should do or what they should refrain from doing and positive rule – imposes a legal obligation to do or refrain from doing something). Therefore, the NMC codes pull on both the normative and positive rule to underpin a shared set of values as enshrined by the regulatory body.

Apply the concept of dignity in delivering care by respecting the patient as an individual

The concept of dignity A concept is a label given to an observed phenomenon In the policy documents NHS Plan (Department of Health (DH), 2000) and Standards for Better Health (DH, 2004) DH states that patients would be treated as an individual first and treated with respect and dignity by focusing on their whole health and wellbeing not only their illness. It further added that the nurses would also be treated with respect and dignity. These words are echoed in the NMC (2008) Code though it does not mention the registrant.

Apply the concept of dignity

Deliver care with dignity

Identifying factors that influence and maintain patient dignity

Challenges situation/others when patient dignity may be compromised

Quality of care and clinical governance cycle


To the author who is a novice (Benner, 1984) the NMC guidance may appear to be a difficult responsibility to fulfil in practice but to an expert nurse the process and analysis of data happens on an unconscious level. This is done as the nurse may be able to deconstruct an incident by summoning his cognitive intuition (knowledge, experience) therefore the clinical decisions appears in his/her conscious mind readily formed (Lyneham et al. 2008; 2009).

So it reasonable to conclude that regimes of care should actually benefit clients, rather than simply not cause harm.

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