Health professionals are highly respected and regarded as individuals that work to protect and improve a person’s health in a safe environment by diagnosing and treating the person with the illness that results in recovery from mental, physical or social perspectives, either directly or indirectly (Kurban, 2010, pg. 760). Therefore, it is important for nurses to understand the difference between law and ethics as in some instances, ethical, legal and clinical issues may overlap. Nurses continually to face ethical challenges when providing care to patients and therefore imperative in understanding the difference between law and ethics as in some instances ethical, legal and clinical issues often overlap.
The professional code of conduct and ethics for nurses emphasize the key standards and professional practices of all nursing and midwifery employees and outlines their professional responsibilities. The code of conduct and ethics should be used jointly as a tool that helps support decision-making, reflection and learning and development (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2016).
o Conduct 1: Nurses value quality nursing care for all people – It is evidently clear in the coroner’s findings that none of the nursing staff referred to the baseline observations taken by the EN and the integrated progress notes that clearly signified a deterioration in the patient. The code of professional conduct states, RN’s must accept accountability for decisions, actions, behaviours, and responsibilities inherent in their role and not compromise the safety or quality of care (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2016).
o Conduct 5: Nurses value informed decision-making, however, EN Laja failed to report changes in the patient’s vital observations to the Registered Nurse that she would be working. Her decision inhibited any clinical decisions that could be made by the RN on duty. Failure to rescue in this situation was due to EN Laja’s inability to recognize the patient’s deterioration and not providing necessary nursing interventions, such as calling a MET due to poor clinical reasoning skills (Levett-Jones, et al., 2010).
o Conduct 6: Nurses value the culture of safety in nursing and healthcare- The EN, RN’s failed to provide safe and quality care in that they did not process some of the patient signs and symptoms that indicated her rapid deterioration
o Conduct 7: Nurses value ethical management of information –record keeping regarding the care for Mrs. McKay-HALL was not adequately maintained thereby making it relatively challenging in providing a clear pattern of the patient’s deterioration.
(Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2016)
The nursing staff were clearly facing an ethical dilemma as to whether they should consult the family or her next of kin regarding her condition or they either neglected the need to. The nurses’ reluctance in consulting with the patient’s family may be due numerous factors such as, not wanting to burden family members with the problem; involving the family in what is considered a confidential and consulting them may be unethical and their fear of provoking a complaint that could result in litigation (Ulrich, Taylor, Soeken, O’Donnell, Farrar, Danis & Grady, 2010).