Professionalism: The Roles of the Professional Nurse

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Consider the following scenario: It’s a hectic day in the Emergency Room (ER) and the nurses are short-staffed. A patient with a history of drug seeking is omitted to the ER and demands a narcotic to ease his back pain. The nurse who is taking care of him is irritated and yells at the patient stating, you’re nothing but a drug addict! The nurse administers the drug but continues to be rude and condescending.

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When the nurse gets off her shift, she feels she needs to vent about her day and calls a fellow co-worker. Although the nurse names no names, she makes it obvious who the patient is. She continues to vent about how the majority of society drug seeks and believes that people who ask for a narcotic aren’t really in pain. The next day, the nurse’s supervisor calls and fires the nurse for unprofessional conduct towards a patient and for discussing private patient information to a fellow co-worker.

The nurse doesn’t hold herself accountable, believing she was harmless when yelling at the patient, because she still gave the pain medication anyway. She then calls the coworker and blames them for getting her fired. Obviously, this nurse had no training and a lack of education in professional boundaries. This scenario is a general example that could affect any nurse that breaches his or her professional boundaries, because there will be situations where nurses may be understaffed, a patient may be drug-seeking, and where a nurse wants to vent about their day. However, it is how the nurse conducts his or her self that is critical to maintaining professionalism and accountability in coping with such situations. According to the American Nurses Association, professionalism is defined as accountability that is rooted to an ethical and moral principle. This adheres to a nurse taking responsibility, as well as, respecting self-determination of the patient (Black, 2015). Thus, to reserve professionalism, what the nurse should have done was communicate with the supervisor from the start that the unit was understaffed, as well as, build a rapport with the patient, specifically in relations to the patient’s pain.

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