A nurse’s role is not solely built on care delivery. It also stands on a firm foundation of ethical behavior, a values-driven platform that looks past a patient’s race, religion, culture, or economic standing to ensure the patient can receive optimal, unbiased care. Beyond a general call for nurses to respect the patient, the concept of nursing values and beliefs consists of different components that enable nurses to work honorably.
The Role of Ethics in the Nursing Profession
Acting ethically alters a nurse’s mission in a small but critical way. Rather than a nurse asking, “What can I do?” ethics compels them to ask, “What should be done?” Striving to do what’s right and ethical can prevent bias from creeping into a nurse’s decision-making. The National League for Nursing (NLN) developed a core values model that promotes doing right by patients. This model comprises the following:
● Caring. Delivering empathy for the patient as they cope with their condition.
● Integrity. Remaining respectful of the patient’s dignity, regardless of illness or issue.
● Diversity. Honoring patient individuality, regardless of race, religion, or values.
● Excellence. Working toward delivering the most optimal care possible in all situations.
Different roles in the nursing profession require different processes to satisfy this mandate. For instance, a nurse specializing in palliative or hospice care may take on an advocacy role for a patient who has a strict do not resuscitate (DNR) order. A family care nurse practitioner, on the other hand, may have to adhere to a patient’s request to avoid prescribed opioids, even if the nurse feels such a prescription may provide more efficient care.
The NLN model does help the nurse adapt to a care strategy that’s primarily driven by integrity. This foundation can not only manifest in positive relationships between the nurse and the patient, but also in interpersonal relationships with those in other professional care roles, such as physicians and staff.
Nursing, Cultural Diversity, and Religious Practice
Expressing tolerance and avoiding bias in the nursing field transcends the concept of race. It’s imperative that nurses gain a firm understanding of the broad, nuanced traditions that can often define the cultural and the religious status of a patient. This is particularly important in the United States, where individuals who emigrate from other countries can still hold firm to the various beliefs and practices of their native countries.
Without sensitivity toward a patient’s culture or religion, a nurse could inadvertently do something that offends the patient. For instance, a nurse who’s unaware of a practicing Muslim’s faith could constantly disrupt the patient’s prayer time. This perceived lack of respect could impair the nurse-patient relationship, which could make it more difficult for the nurse to deliver high-quality patient care.
Nursing and Palliative Care
End-of-life care can require adult-gerontology nurses to conduct two equally fundamental tasks. The first is to effectively and ethically handle a host of care issues uniquely present in end-of-life scenarios, such as DNR decisions, pain management, and assistance. The second task is to honor a patient’s end-of-life wishes and plans as much as possible. Doing so can enable the patient to pass away in a dignified manner, one that aligns with their personal terms.
Social Justice for Patients
Occasionally, nurses may find that operating under a value system involves advocating for those who cannot necessarily advocate for themselves. In some cases, this could be simply providing an equal level of quality care regardless of a patient’s race or socioeconomic background. In other instances, it may include providing special care for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. This approach to care establishes a sense of dignity and equality to groups most at risk of not receiving these fundamental rights.
How Nursing Specialties Can Help Shape Values
Students enrolling in an advanced nursing program such as a Master of Science in Nursing can take courses designed to hone the skills that are key to incorporating solid values and beliefs. These programs commonly offer specializations that may enable nurses to obtain an even deeper understanding of the unique ethics surrounding specific types of care. For instance, an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner specialization may help students to develop an expertise in the ethical needs of elderly patients, particularly in terms of palliative care. A woman’s health nurse practitioner specialization can equip students to be advocates of social justice for scenarios specific to female patients. Students who pursue a family care nurse practitioner specialization can fine-tune their skills in delivering equal, honor-driven care to patients of all cultural and religious backgrounds, regardless of age or gender.
The skills and competencies developed and honed through an advanced nursing program enable graduates to provide patients a sense of dignity, regardless of the level of care they require. Learn more about how Regis College’s online Master of Science in Nursing program can help students develop the necessary skills to ensure dignity and integrity are always part of their care delivery agenda.
American Nurse Today, “Helping Patients Navigate End-of-Life Issues”
American Nurses Association, Diversity Awareness
Lippincott Nursing Center, “Ethical Issues Experienced by Hospice and Palliative Nurses”
National League for Nursing, Core Values
Regis College, Online Master of Science in Nursing
U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Nursing Ethical Values and Definitions: A Literature Review”