A Practical Nursing Student’s Guide to Professional Ethics

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Ethics are a central part of a nurse’s daily life. For nursing professionals, supporting a community’s health involves a widely diverse range of skills and responsibilities. Strong ethical standards help them approach each task with the most appropriate and sensitive care.

If you’re interested in becoming a practical nurse, the right training can bring your ethical reasoning skills up to the nationwide standard. Training will provide you with the knowledge base and skills you’ll need to meet requirements set by the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of British Columbia, and to excel in the field. Strong ethics will be essential to your success.

Whether you plan to enroll in practical nursing courses, or you’ve recently begun your program, read on for a basic guide to the ethical aspects of practical nursing.

The Canadian Practical Nursing Code of Ethics

The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) has an in-depth official document that serves as a foundation for nursing ethics, outlining the specific values and responsibilities expected of all nursing professionals.

To make this information easier to take in, the CNA Code of Ethics can be divided into two main parts:

  • Part I, “Nursing Values,” offers exact definitions of the ethical values all nurses should promote: including health and well-being, dignity, privacy, confidentiality, justice, and accountability.
  • Part II, “Ethical Endeavours,” outlines the responsibility nurses have for protecting social justice in Canada’s healthcare system.

Once you begin your studies, you’ll realize how important (and challenging) these standards can be to uphold. Read on for advice on handling some of nursing’s most common challenges.

Critical Thinking in Practical Nursing: Making Reasonable Decisions

Practical nursing training will help you learn highly specialized and standardized skills—like administering medicine, writing progress reports, and performing examinations alongside therapists and doctors. Training will lay down the clear line between the right and wrong ways of doing these tasks. But in the real world’s complex medical environment, grey areas sometimes occur.

Each nurse must make judgement calls on a daily basis, from which patient needs attention first to deciding whether a certain medication is working for a patient, and which changes to advise. It takes critical thinking skills to come to the most reasonable decisions, and best apply the Code of Ethics to each and every situation.

Recognizing “Moral Distress” in the Nursing Field

Sometimes outside factors can act as roadblocks to making ethical decisions. For example, if a senior care facility is understaffed due to budget cuts, this may cut down on the amount of attention given to each of its patients’ care.

In situations like this, it’s common for nurses to experience moral distress. They might feel frustrated, angry, or disappointed in themselves for not measuring up to their own standards of ethical care. However, their distress is a very useful tool. Recognizing moral distress helps nurses identify ethical dilemmas they can begin to fix—usually by bringing the problems to the attention of supervisory staff.

Practical Nursing’s Social Justice Angle

Professionals in practical nursing careers deal with a diverse cross-section of society on a daily basis. They care for all of society’s most vulnerable members, who come from a wide range of social backgrounds. Learning to treat every patient and co-worker with justice and respect is absolutely central to the ethics of nursing.

With the right training and a strong grasp of ethical standards, becoming a nurse can help you make a meaningful difference in the health of your own community, one patient at a time.

Are you interested in learning more by enrolling in a BC nursing program? Visit Stenberg for more information or to speak with an advisor.



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