Legal and Ethical Parameters of Professional Nursing Practice Essay One

1 January 2017

Legal and ethical parameters of professional nursing practice essay one Professional nurses encounter a variety of legal ethical and bioethical issues on a daily basis. For this reason, it is essential that all nurses are aware of current state and national legislation, acts and guidelines and the implications of these for nursing practices as well as legal processes, principles of open disclosure and the role of a coroner in the health sector. In this way, nurses can adhere to the overarching guidelines for practice as well as working within the code of conduct, competency standards and scope of practice.

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This paper will provide an overview of legal and ethical parameters of professional nursing practice. Nurses must work within the guidelines of both the profession specific and national legislative guidelines. At an industry level, nurses must adhere to the principles of the Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics. The Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics are two companion documents developed by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC), the professional body that sets the national standards and processes for the regulation of nursing.

The purpose of these documents is to identify the professional standards that all nurses are expected to uphold to ensure a positive view of the nursing profession. These documents are also essential in recognizing the expected behaviour of professional nurses to respect, promote and uphold the basic rights of all people, including both the patients and nursing and health care providers. Further the codes allow for reflection of the behaviour and conduct of nurses against expected standards of behaviour and practice and assist with making ethical and fair decisions.

As well as industry generated guidelines, state and federal legislation also guides nursing practice. A key guideline/legislation is the Nurse Practice Act (NPA). The Nurse Practice Act (NPA) defines nursing practice and, when used in conjunction with the employers’ policies and procedures, helps guide responsible decision making and professional expectations. Further, it is used to protect nurses by identifying inappropriate or unsafe actions that may put the individual nurse, the patient and/or the significant others supporting the patient at risk.

Each individual act provides the legal parameters for the practice of professional nursing in that jurisdiction, and has been developed to safeguard the public from care by unqualified practitioners. It is essential that all Nurses are familiar with the Nurse Practice Act in their state of employment and that ethical decisions have legal ramifications. Breaches of the act may result in disciplinary action by supervising nursing staff, reporting to the nursing board and possible deregistration.

At a practice level, the importance and guidance of the Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics and NPA are demonstrated on a daily basis with regard to the issues of documentation, informed consent and open disclosure, and confidentiality. With respect to documentation, nurses must be able to document patient assessments and responses in an accurate, comprehensive and confidential manner and record all observations objectively.

Informed consent and open disclosure are also major legal issues nurses face daily. It refers to the communication between the patient and health professional that results in the patient’s agreement to undergo a specific procedure and requires that the patient has thoroughly understood the procedure, implications and risks prior to giving written consent. Associated with this is the concept of patient autonomy, which is to allow the patient more independence and freedom of choice.

Autonomy provides the patient with a chance to voice their own opinion and the power to consent to or to refuse medical treatment and it is a legal right of the patient. Key to adhering to these guidelines outlined above and others set by industry specialist and legislation, is the requirement of all nurses to work within their scope of practice. Enrolled nurses, (ENs) are accountable for all their actions and must practice in accordance with legislation, to their level of knowledge and experience.

They work in partnership with health consumers, families and health prociders. ENs must work under the direction and delegation of a registered nurse(RNs) or nurse practitioner to deliver nursing care, ENs may contribute to assessments and care plans however the RN maintains overall responsibility for the plan of care. ENs assist with the activities of daily living, observe changes in conditions and report all findings to the registered nurse.

EN’s may administer medications and carryout other nursing care responsibilities appropriate to their assessed competence. Should an EN have difficulty identifying their role of practice, it is essential for ethical and legal requirements that they confidently discuss any concerns with their supervising RN or management team. The adherence to ethical and legislative principles and guidelines is monitored and regulated by professional bodies such as the ANMAC, state registration boards and other legal experts.

A professional that may contribute to investigations of practice is the Coroner whose role it is to enquire into the circumstances of sudden, unexplained, violent and unnatural deaths. Coroners identify the “who, when, where and how”. A Coroner is not permitted to consider civil or criminal liability; he or she must simply establish the facts. If a death is due to unnatural causes, then an inquest must be held by law. The death can then be registered and a death certificate can be obtained.

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