Ethics: a set of moral principles, theory or set of values. Principles of conduct.
Honesty: adherence to facts, sincerity or fairness and straightforwardness of conduct.
The high regard in which nursing professionals are held by the general public has remained virtually unchanged for 18 years. The honesty and ethical standards of nurses are ranked at an astounding 84% as compared to other professions. Healthcare professionals as a whole rank high as compared to other professions such as stockbrokers, insurance sales, advertising, attorneys or labor unionists. Three other health professions; physicians, pharmacists and dentists are held in similar high esteem at 65%, 64% and 61% respectively. Journalists were ranked at 28% and US Senators and members of the House of Representatives rank only slightly higher than car salespeople at 12-13%. This is certainly reflected in the poor job approval ratings given to our state and federal legislators. According to Gallup, Americans have not given Congress an approval rating of over 30% in more than 10 years.
What are the exceptional qualities of nurses that consistently place them at the top of the leader board? Until you need one, nursing is often one of the undervalued and underrated professions out there. Nursing is not easy. Frequently demanding and unforgiving, physically, mentally and spiritually. The ability to care for ailing patients and their families for long periods of time or leading a unit can be challenging. Number one on all lists of top nursing qualities is professionalism. “Nurses need to be professional in their approach towards their work. Whether it is meeting with and attending patients, administering medication or maintaining patient records, they need to do it all in the most skilled and ethical manner.” In addition, never-ending diligence, exceptional communication skills and effective interpersonal skills are also at the top of the list of qualifications. Nurses are often the go-between physicians and other healthcare workers and patients and their families. Both sides of this coin need to have intrinsic and implicit faith in the nursing profession for this dialogue to operate effectively and efficiently. Nurses are known for their attention to detail, quick problem-solving abilities and taking nothing for granted. They are action oriented, empathetic, energetic and often have a keen sense of humor.
Part of every nursing school curriculum is truth-telling and ethics. These are considered core values and fundamental nursing ideology. There are 7 basic principles of Ethics in Nursing:
- Justice: This means fairness in distributing care within the group of patients in their care.
- Beneficence: This refers to doing good and doing the right thing for maximum benefit.
- Non-maleficence: This is the Hippocratic Oath of doing no harm. In nursing, this dates back to Florence Nightingale who strongly believed it is the responsibility of nurses to protect their patients.
- Accountability: Nurses accept responsibility for their nursing care and other actions. There is an awareness of professional and personal consequences that can result from their actions.
- Fidelity: This means keeping professional promises and responsibilities by providing high quality and safe care.
- Autonomy: This refers to upholding the self determination rights of the patient to make decisions regarding their medical treatment.
- Veracity: Nurses must be completely truthful and not withhold any truths from patients even in the face of potential distress.
Nurses are trustworthy for three specific reasons:
- Honesty: Nurses are often the ones to tell the truth to patients and family. This includes interpreting what physicians communicate as well as test results. The expectation is honesty in part because the nature of contact is so intimate. Who else would be trusted to start an IV or insert a Foley? Nurses make patients feel safe, secure and cared for.
- Patient Contact Time: 99% of patient time in hospital is in interaction with the nursing staff. Nurses are the face they see when they hurt or have a question.
- Good, Old Fashioned Caring: Nurses care, and patients know this. It is hard to fake concern at a patient’s bedside and they can see it as well as sense it. Nursing is often the human side of the medical profession. Nurses hold your hand, fluff your pillow and listen.
Patient satisfaction surveys, letters from grateful patients and commendations from physicians and fellow healthcare professionals all echo the Gallup poll results. The contributions great nurse leaders make to move healthcare and the nursing profession forward begin at the bedside. Nurses have earned their place in healthcare planning and decision making. Front line nursing continues to be the driving force behind advances in the profession. They are the ones at the root of the Gallup poll results that embody the ethics and honesty of what makes a truly great nurse.
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