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Nursing is a profession that has a high public profile and high expectations from the public. Each state regulates nursing in the U.S. Nurses are expected to conduct themselves in an ethical way at work, and not to bring the profession into ill repute outside of work. Nurses involved in research are expected to be aware of the ethical aspects of research and to follow rules set down by ethics committees. Nurses directly involved in patient care must pay due regard to all aspects of human rights. The American Nurses Association, the professional organization for registered nurses, has established a code of ethics and standards that apply to the practice of all professional nurses in the U.S.
Confidentiality and Autonomy
Nurses have to have an awareness of legislation on patient confidentiality and the policies of their own organization. Nurses should not breach confidentiality, unless the circumstances are exceptional--for instance, if the patient is threatening harm to himself or others. Nurses must not discuss patients' details outside of the care setting, and must take care of notes, paper and computer files. Nurses should make all efforts to promote the patient's rights to make her own decision whenever possible.
Protection From Harm
The nurse's conduct must protect the patient from harm. He must not undertake something he thinks might cause harm to the patient even if he has been told or asked to do so by another person. The nurse is accountable for her own actions, and might be asked to explain these in later proceedings. If the nurse sees anything she fears may endanger the patient, she must immediately report this to management.
The nurse has a duty to keep up to date with all developments that may have an impact on his job. He must attend professional development and training activities. Part of his duty may involve training and mentoring new and junior staff. Nurses must meet any training requirements and pay any fees needed to maintain licensing.
Noreen Wainwright has been writing since 1997. Her work has appeared in "The Daily Telegraph," "The Guardian," "The Countryman" and "The Lady." She has a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences from Liverpool Polytechnic and a postgraduate law degree from Staffordshire University.