As a service-oriented profession, nursing should have a foundation of ethical principles in delivering nursing care to clients throughout the lifespan. As a profession of nursing evolved, more and more ethical concerns were made. The view of code of ethics of nurses were broad enough that each country recognizing the practice of nursing has its own version, nonetheless, lifted from the International Code of Ethics for Nurses.
By definition, code of ethics means that it is a group of principles or ideals that guide the behaviour and decision-making practices of an individual or group with similar goals and objectives. Nurses’ code of ethics came about as early as the time of Florence Nightingale. Before her time, nursing is not considered as a noble profession. But with the emergence of code of ethics, nurses were trained to provide proper behaviour and conduct on each independent nursing service they render to each client.
A highlight on the creation of Nurses’ Code of Ethics was composed by a nursing instructor Lystra Gretter in 1893. She was the one who wrote the following words that best describes the code of ethics of nurses in the oath for nurses:
“to abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.”
More than 100 years have passed; these words still pursue its purpose in every young nurse that takes his or her oath in the profession. The words were really tailored to remind nurses that every hour on the hour they are liable to do what right for the patient and never do harm. In order to provide universality on the practice of code of ethics, the Internal Council of Nurses made a code of ethics that served as the basis of standard of practice of nurses worldwide. This was first adopted in 1953 and recently revised in 2006.
Revisions of code of ethics were necessary since the needs of the clients also change. In order to fit in the changing society, The Code makes it clear that nursing is a profession that gives high value to human rights and access to health care and sustenance of life with respect to the views of different people.
Basic concepts of the Code of Ethics
1. Rights – According to the Webster dictionary, a right means “something to which one has a just claim or the power or privilege.” One example of rights is often discussed in hospital premises, such as the rights of the patient. Nurses must be aware of these rights since sometimes patients may refuse the nursing care that they could give. Remember that it is also the right of the patient to refuse such as procedure or medication even thought that your purpose as a nurse is to help him or her.
2. Autonomy – The concept of autonomy can be seen during decision-making of undergoing such procedures whether invasive or not. An informed consent is one example of how a nurse can practice the concept of autonomy. Nurses must be able to accept the fact that an individual may have different cultural and religious background that could influence his or her submission to medical procedures. Using a written consent during such cases can protect the patient and the hospital in particular against legal violations of invading the privacy of an individual.
3. Beneficence and nonmaleficence – These concepts can be seen during rendering nursing care. It is very important that nursing care must do not harm (beneficence) but rather be safe for the patient. Likewise, nursing care must also be sure enough that it cannot lead to intentional harm (nonmaleficence). Patients nowadays are very sensitive regarding these concepts, so nurses are challenged to give quality nursing care every day.
4. Fidelity – Most of the time, this term is correlated to marital relationship. However, nurses should have fidelity towards four major parts of her profession: patient, company, community and environment. Fidelity is being accountable to your actions towards each individual or group you encounter.
In the Philippines for instance, the Professional Regulatory Board and Board of Nurses have adopted the Philippine Code of Ethics for Nurses in 2004. Each nurse practicing in the Philippines must be aware of such in order to serve the Filipinos the best nursing care they could have.