As a professional member of the health care team, there are certain ethical and legal issues that must be upheld by the Certified Nurse Assistant. Many of these ethical issues involve a little common sense on your part, but it is always good to know your limitations for your place of employment.
First of all, honesty is always the best policy. You should be forthright with your patients and with other members of the health care staff. If you make a mistake, you should own up to it. After all, everyone makes a mistake now and then, and the best way to rectify the situation is to admit when you are wrong. You should also avoid feeding into gossip or rumors that may cause conflict in your work place.
Avoid operating outside your scope of practice. You should know your limitations and adhere to them. You may even be asked to do something beyond your legal capabilities by a senior staff member or a supervisor. If you are feeling pressured or if your rebuffs go unheeded, you should follow the chain of command and report it immediately.
You should report any and all abuse immediately. This could involve verbal, emotional, physical or even sexual abuse of a patient by a staff member or it could involve the abuse of a staff member by another staff member. In rare instances, a patient could assume the role of the abuser. Be sure and document your findings, fill out an incident report and follow the chain of command to report any signs of abuse immediately. There should be no reprimand for doing what is right.
A patient is entitled by law, the right to his/her privacy. Avoid discussing a patient’s plan of care or condition with unauthorized personnel. Avoid speaking to a patient’s family members about their personal issues unless the patient consents. If you are unsure, have the family member ask the Doctor or Nurse in charge of them. A patient’s condition is also not a proper discussion for other members of the healthcare staff unless they are directly involved in the care of that individual. Also, it is unethical to discuss a patient’s affairs with your own friends or family members outside the healthcare facility. This is extremely unprofessional and is a breach of patient trust. It is also punishable by law.
Always document carefully. Your documentation should be clear and concise and should accurately reflect the condition of the person whom you are caring for. Avoid berating a belligerent patient in your documentation and leave your personal feelings out of notation. A patient’s medical files are not about you; they are for that individual and should be kept professional.
There will be times in your medical career where you will bond with someone whom you are caring for. It is natural to have feeling of compassion or even love for a patient who is under your care, especially if they require long term care. Many patients feel gratitude and love toward their providers as well and some may want to repay you for your service to them. It is unethical to accept gifts or money from a patient. It is best to decline and say a kind word.
As a health care professional, it is easy to become attached to a patient or their family members, especially if they are under your care for an extended length of time. Again, this is human nature. However, it is highly unethical to become personally or sexually involved with a patient or one of their family members. This is very unprofessional behavior and can ruin your reputation within the work place and can debase you in the eyes of the patient or their family. Sexual relations with a patient or someone close to them may even result in your termination. Keep all personal and sexual relations outside the work place.
A professional C.N.A. should know all legal and ethical boundaries and should follow them profusely. If you are unsure, it is always a good idea to brush up on your reading skills and take the time to find out. Following your code of ethics and working within the confines of the law will prove you to be trustworthy, reliable, and professional and will ensure your success as a professional member of the healthcare team.
Written by Stephanie Dubenezic RN, LPN