Legal and Ethical Responsibilities of Nurses, Free Essay Example

Published: 2022-12-08
Legal and Ethical Responsibilities of Nurses, Free Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Law Ethics Profession Nursing care
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 958 words
8 min read


The ethical standards and responsibilities refer to the norms and conduct that are expected of the nurses during their profession. It is the minimum standards of the appropriate conduct that nurses should follow in their daily practices. In their work, nurses face numerous legal and ethical dilemmas that affect their decisions and the way they handle issues. Most of these dilemmas are related to medical treatment procedures, hospital management, and records management among others. There are many guidelines that help nurses to avoid legal liabilities and to remain ethical workers in their practice. Medical errors lead to the death of many people in the United States and some of them are as a result of the actions of the nurses (Makary & Daniel, 2016). The law has stipulations that can be used to hold the nurses liable for the death of the patients if the death is as a result of their negligence. The ethical and legal responsibilities guide the nurses on how to conduct their duties effectively.

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Legal Responsibilities

The first legal responsibility is to attend to the patients in the most responsible way. Nurses are charged for negligence if their actions do not conform to the expected standards of quality of services. For example, if the nurses give the wrong medication as a result of negligent testing analysis of lab results, they are liable for the outcomes that follow the actions. The law gives explanations of situations whereby the nurse is liable in law. The other one is an invasion of privacy, which violates the confidentiality of the patients. Nurses are legally liable if they disclose information about their patients to the wrong sources or for the wrong purposes. For example, the use of electronic health records (EHR) to investigate a patient without their consent is illegal. When patients share their personal information with the nurses, they expect confidentiality and any sharing of such data without the consent of the patients is also illegal. The other one is the responsibilities on behalf of a trainee or a licensed practical nurse. A registered nurse (RN) is legally liable for any injuries caused by the licensed practical nurse (LPN). The duty of care is a major role for all nurses and any breach of duty could attract legal liabilities (Shields, Reneau, Albert, Siegel & Trinh, 2018). The use of evidence-based practices helps in providing the right healthcare.

Ethical Responsibilities

The nursing profession has many ethical standards that protect patients from the possible misconducts of the nurses. According to Kangasniemi, Pakkanen and Korhonen (2015), professional ethics in nursing are based on the practices that nurses ought to follow when offering services to the patients. The first one is patient privacy and confidentiality. As stated above, the conversations between a patient and a nurse are strictly confidential and the nurse should maintain confidentiality. The other one is the transmission of diseases, whereby a nurse is expected to prevent the spread of diseases by all means. For example, the sharing of needles is unethical and increases the chances of transmitting diseases. A nurse who does not observe these ethical standards can lead to the massive spread of communicable diseases. Sexual or intimate relationships between the nurses and their patients are also unethical and nurses are restricted from it. It is wrong for the nurses to use their encounters with patients to build up relationships that could compromise their operations. The end of life issues also poses many ethical dilemmas for nurses. There are many people who have terminal illnesses and they have wishes on how they would like to end their lives. Nurses are expected to balance between these wishes, their medical duties and the concerns of the family members.

Resolution Recommendation and Communication

The resolution is to have a better set of rules and principles to follow for all nurses to make sure that there are minimal ethical and legal challenges. The management in the clinical centers should offer guidance to the nurses on how to achieve their legal and ethical requirements. For example, all nurses should be trained on the ethical and legal structures that govern their work and how to achieve their goals without having ethical and legal challenges. The communication used to reach out to the nurses should be based on the nature of their work and the resources available. The use of emails and messages can be used to pass the messages to the nurses. Notice boards and pamphlets can also be used to communicate to nurses. Updating nurses on the new laws and regulations should be done in an effective way that all nurses can access. The other solution is to encourage interoperability among nurses. Some of the errors that affect the nursing profession are as a result of the lack of interoperability of the nurses (Samal et al., 2016). The importance of interoperability is that it keeps nurses up to date with the trends of legal and ethical requirements in the profession. In conclusion, the nursing profession requires legal and ethical principles that help the nurses to do their duties diligently.


Kangasniemi, M., Pakkanen, P., & Korhonen, A. (2015). Professional ethics in nursing: an integrative review. Journal of advanced nursing, 71(8), 1744-1757.

Makary, M. A., & Daniel, M. (2016). Medical error-the third leading cause of death in the US. BMJ, 353, i2139.

Samal, L., Dykes, P. C., Greenberg, J. O., Hasan, O., Venkatesh, A. K., Volk, L. A., & Bates, D. W. (2016). Care coordination gaps due to lack of interoperability in the United States: a qualitative study and literature review. BMC health services research, 16(1), 143.

Shields, M. C., Reneau, H., Albert, S. M., Siegel, L., & Trinh, N. H. (2018). Harms to consumers of inpatient psychiatric facilities in the United States: an analysis of news articles. Issues in mental health nursing, 1-7.

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