Responsibilities of Nurses

All nurses provide direct patient care as directed by a physician. Both LVNs and R.N.s can take orders directly from physicians. In some states, however, the LVN must have the R.N. cosign any verbal orders the LVN takes. The LVNs could carry out the orders and report back to the R.N. any significant findings or response to treatment. The R.N. would then assess the patient and report to the M.D.

All nurses promise to do no harm to any patient and are expected to uphold fundamental responsibilities to help to prevent illness and restore health, help to alleviate pain and suffering, and to promote health. Nurses should also follow a code of ethics for nurses as set and frequently revised by the American Nurses Association (ANA).

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has also written a code of ethics for nurses that expands on the ANA's code.

Highlights of the responsibilities and guidelines for the ethical and legal practice of nurses as outlined in these codes are:

  • The nurse is expected to provide care for a patient with respect for his human dignity and uniqueness as an individual regardless of race, creed, gender, socio-economic status, or the nature of the illness.

  • The nurse is responsible for safeguarding the patient's right to privacy by honoring the confidentiality of information related to the patient.

  • The nurse is responsible for protecting her patient and the public from health and safety issues affected by illegal, incompetent, and unethical practices.

  • The nurse is responsible and accountable for her own nursing actions and judgments, as well as for those she is supervising.

  • The nurse is responsible for maintaining her own nursing competency.

  • The nurse is responsible for making informed decisions about her own skills and abilities as well as for those to whom she might delegate the responsibility. The nurse is expected to seek consultation if necessary before accepting or delegating the responsibility for any aspect of a patient's care.

  • The nurse is expected to participate in the nursing profession's ongoing efforts and activities to expand the core of research-based knowledge for nurses.

  • The nurse is expected to participate in the nursing profession's efforts to implement and improve the standards of nursing care.

  • The nurse is expected to participate in the nursing profession's efforts to maintain conditions of employment, including equitable socio-economic standards, which allow for delivery of high-quality nursing care.

  • The nurse is responsible for participating with the nursing profession in protecting the public from misinformation and misrepresentations.

  • The nurse is expected to participate and collaborate with other members of the health care team and community in promoting local and national efforts to meet the health care needs of the public.

The nursing profession is not to be taken lightly, nor to be entered into on a whim. Nurses are the backbone of the health care team. Nurses render health care not only to the individual patients, but also to their families and to the community. Nurses are expected to coordinate the efforts of everyone involved to enhance the health and well-being of their patients. Nurses are responsible for respecting human rights. These include the right to life, the right to dignity, and the right to respect.

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