“The Ethics-Advocacy Connection” by Mary Atkinson Smith

In The Ethics/Advocacy Connection, Mary Atkinson Smith discusses the ethical leadership qualities nurses should possess to contribute to efficient and safe patient care. The topic relates to safety competency since the author repeatedly emphasizes that ethical leadership is crucial for the provision of direct and indirect care for patients. In other words, minimizing the risk of harm to patients and providers requires nurses’ thorough understanding and practice of moral and ethical obligations. For instance, as the author emphasizes, nurses should have the moral courage to raise concerns against any risks or errors that would undermine patient safety. As such, the characteristics of ethical leadership are an essential part of nursing competency.

In the first section, Building a Moral Compass, Smith refers to the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements by the American Nurses Association (ANA). The author states that this document can lead nurses in understanding and improving their qualities in ethical leadership. The author claims that nine provisions outlined in this code of ethics can help nurses acknowledge the fundamental moral values, commitments, and responsibilities in encountering a patient. The article also highlights the importance of remembering the six standard ethical principles of nursing. These principles include respect for autonomy, beneficence, justice, fidelity, veracity, and non-maleficence.

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In the next section, Morals vs. Ethics, the author differentiates morals from ethics. Acknowledging the difficulty nurses may encounter in understanding the distinction between morals and ethics, the author argues that these are two separate concepts. While morals refer to good or bad actions, ethics generally encapsulates the educational branch investigating moral values and principles. In addition, morals are based on the individual level, and ethics refer to the values of larger groups, societies, and organizations. In ethical dilemma situations, clinicians should recall that they have the ultimate moral obligation to ensure patient safety as a priority for patients and representative institutions.

The author provides personal qualities that nurses should possess in terms of ethical leadership in nursing, which include courage, competency, compassion, commitment, candor, consistency, communication, and conviction of intuition. While competency is nurses’ responsibility to provide professional, competent care, compassion means nurses should show empathy for patients. Nurses should also commit to continuously advocating a patient cause while remaining transparent and honest with their patients. Moreover, ethical nurse leaders should be skillful and consistent in their behavior and communication. Lastly, nurses should develop a conviction of intuition, based on which they can be intuitively mindful of unsound or unsafe decisions.

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