The values of individuals are created by family upbringing, spiritual belief systems, life experiences and political ideologies. In this respect, there are a wide variety of values, which creates conflicting opinions in subjects like healthcare. This is why there are so many debates regarding healthcare access, delivery and economics. Despite differences in beliefs and opinions, there are policies that dictate social issues in healthcare and demand certain values. For example, The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) prevents hospitals from denying emergency services based on a patient’s ability to pay.
As an experienced nurse of over 20 years, one policy that contributes to my decision-making and value base is the American Nurses Association’s (ANA’s) Code of Ethics. Regardless of my personal values, the ANA demands that my professional values match their code. Health policy values ensure that nurses are able to perform quality healthcare services without the negative influences of unique, personal values and external influences. Every nurse should be free to practice nursing with a collective goal of patient prioritization and quality care.
Fortunately, my personal values are very similar to the ANA’s code. I am a very caring, just and fair person. I believe in lifelong learning, prioritizing family, and respect. These broad descriptions of my values reveal the kindness and compassion that has driven my career path. My characteristics were likely developed through my upbringing and education, as I attended Catholic schools from primary school through college. I have always given back to the community and still volunteer at least two times a year at local health centers. Having values that are open to objectivity and driven for success has made nursing an excellent career path.
My personal values regarding healthcare are that everybody should have it. I believe in universal healthcare, and I believe in quality care that is constantly improved through lifelong learning. Some value-based decision-making I must make as an emergency room trauma nurse are providing care without consent and mandatory reporting of abuse. I also must be respectful of cultural and religious beliefs even if they are contrary to my own. Alleged criminals must be treated in an equal manner to all other patients. Privacy laws must always be honored without exception. I am also a mobile intensive care nurse where I give orders to paramedics over the radio. I must deal with confused patients who refuse treatment and decide if resuscitative efforts should be given to a pulseless child as a compassionate gesture to parents. At times, it is gut-wrenching work, which is why I am fortunate to have values that are similar to the ANA’s code.
The ANA’s code of ethics consists of 9 provisions. These provisions include practicing with compassion and dignity and prioritizing the patient above all else. Nurses are to be patient advocates, and they are always acting with the goal of health promotion and providing the best care possible. Additionally, nurses are expected to treat themselves like they would their patients and remain in good character while practicing and at home. Lastly, a nurse is supposed to work and collaborate with other nurses and constantly research to improve lifelong learning (American Nurses Association, 2015).
As previously stated, my personal values reflect the ANA’s intentions behind their code of ethics. As a nurse, economics can help and hinder my care resources, such as budget restraints that prevent the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment, but when practicing, economics must be far from my mind. Whether or not a patient can pay does not impact my responsibility to provide care. I must also continuously work on improving my nursing skills and knowledge to provide the best care possible. As a nurse of over 20 years, it would be easy to become complacent and lack motivation to learn. This does not fit my personal values or the ethical requirements of the ANA. Social factors also play a role in health policy values, especially since many times we are dealing with patients who are in poor circumstances.
Nursing is definitely a science, but it includes the science of caring, which requires complex value construction (Kristoffersen & Friberg, 2015). This is was the ANA’s code of ethics is necessary. Because healthcare is such a necessity, there must be values associated with it that ensures quality delivery of healthcare with best-possible outcomes. My own values thankfully correspond with the professional values required for my work.
The ANA defines professional nursing as “the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations” (Epstein & Turner, 2015). They are charged with providing care for humans who all have different values, and they must respect their values. This blind duty to performance despite conflicting values is what challenges the profession. Every nurse has their own set of personal values, and if those values are different from the values of the profession, this creates a problem. That is why health policy values exist, such as the code of ethics created by the ANA. Nurses must look beyond their personal values and indiscriminately provide the best care they can for their patient. Health policy values serve as a guide when conflicting values are present. They serve as a reminder of the duty of nurses, but they also can help in the decision-making process, as nurses are challenged to do what is best for their patients.