Ethical Principles in Nursing
Authenticity. There seems to be an almost innate inward yearning for the “real me”, the “real you,” the “real deal.” As we begin a new year, the question I ask is why? Is there something within each of us that guides us to our true north, and really, what is true north? A compass is said to guide us to true north by use of the earth’s force of magnetism. Using a freely suspended magnet, the needle of a compass will reliably seek and point to the top of the earth’s magnetic field – every time, in every situation. A compass can be a lifesaver for someone who is lost by providing direction toward a common point. Is there a parallel for nursing as our profession slowly emerges to the dawning of a post-upheaval era in healthcare, with promises of a few more surprises along the way in 2022? As you contemplate this, consider the Nursing Code of Ethics and how you apply your own ethical principles in nursing.
Nursing Code of Ethics
According to the American Nursing Association (ANA), the Nursing Code of Ethics “establishes the ethical standard for the profession and provides a guide for nurses to use in ethical analysis and decision-making”. Provision 4 of the ANA Code of Ethics deals with the accountability and responsibility of nursing judgments, decisions, and actions. To bring forth a new face for nursing, we can display the ethical traits of accountability and responsibility by being truthful and authentic.
Nursing Ethics: Truth and Authenticity
As we reflect on ourselves, and our yearning for truth and authenticity in the workplace and among those who wield the power, we find evidence of a true north within to guide and direct motivations, thoughts, and actions. A true north direction for nursing begins with the individual nurse, regardless of position or setting. We are nursing, and we are the true north of nursing. Our individuality and our collectivity count in establishing a new face for nursing, one which is guided by a true north.
Identifying a True North for Nurses
It is intriguing to contemplate what nurses might currently identify as nursing’s true north after the events of the past two years. A new year is often a time to set goals and resolutions to achieve in the coming months. As a profession, do you think nursing needs a new goal for 2022? Maybe identifying and committing to a true north individually, then pushing discussion for a new face and a collective true north? A helpful voice in identifying a true north for nursing comes from William (Bill) George, Senior Fellow at the Harvard School of Business and former CEO at Medtronic, Inc. In his 2007 book, “True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership,” true north is referred to as one’s moral compass, originating in self-awareness, self-acceptance personally and professionally, and experientially living in the authenticity of one’s morals, values, integrity, and purpose. Included in self-awareness is understanding and acknowledging how one’s strengths, weaknesses, inner purpose, and motivation impact leadership approach and decision making.
Discovering Your True North
A similar vein of thought comes from within nursing in the article, Discovering Your True North. This is a true gem among nursing articles and well worth the read. The takeaways resonate with me as being profoundly appropriate in these times when nursing can feel unhooked from its moorings. The takeaways are listed below, directly from the article:
- Your moral compass keeps you on a track that’s congruent with your values, beliefs, and sense of purpose.
- Your authentic self is who you are as an individual—your interests and views on certain topics—but it also matters professionally.
- Knowing what’s nonnegotiable and staying present and engaged will lead to meaningful work and help you find your authentic self.
This sounds like a reference to the Nursing Code of Ethics: self-awareness, acknowledgment of boundaries with self and others, commitment to integrity, and accountability. It’s that last word that can rankle nurses. How many of us feel like being accountable to someone(s) perceived as disrespectful and disregarding, even bullying, of sacrificial self-giving? That is a big deal in nursing in light of the events of 2020 and 2021. Although nursing has an ethical guide, is it always a living, breathing guide for nurses in their daily lives? Unfortunately, not always.
Self Awareness for Nurses
Let’s think of accountability from a different perspective, one which involves a journey from within as well as without, one toward true north. In this regard, accountability is a move toward, and commitment to, integrity and authenticity.
An individual and collective move toward integrity and authenticity is a step toward true north. My challenge to nurses and nursing in 2022 is a new face by a move individually and collectively to true north - a commitment to authenticity as described above regardless of any circumstance. Check out Bill George’s true north self-inventory, 30 Questions to Help You Discover Your True North to begin or further your journey.
Dr. Ruth Burkhart, Associate Professor and Director of Nursing for Ottawa University, advises nursing students to practice truth and authenticity as a means of upholding the Nursing Code of Ethics and practicing ethical principles in nursing. These are just a few of the skills needed to improve the quality of patient care. Ottawa’s online nursing programs give you the tools to be successful. We can help you fulfill personal and career goals and increase your overall earning potential.
Online Nursing Programs
If you are interested in achieving your dream of becoming a nurse and want more information about our RN to BSN or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs, reach out to an enrollment advisor.
George, B., (2007). True north: Discover your authentic leadership. Jossey-Bass.
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