Taking care of teeny-tiny newborns is a great career -- they’re such cuties, and you get a lot of satisfaction out of sending them home with their parents when your work is done. It’s serious business, though, and neonatal nursing can be fraught with conflict. You need a good moral and ethical compass to help you navigate the sometimes-treacherous waters.
Stick With the Basics
When you’re a registered nurse, there are some basic principles that govern your professional conduct, no matter where you practice. These include putting the patient first, treating people with compassion and respect, and being competent, according to the American Nurses Association. Other important aspects of nursing conduct include maintaining confidentiality, accepting responsibility for your own actions and acting to protect patients from impaired or incompetent practitioners. The responsibility for honesty, integrity and professional growth all land squarely on your shoulders, according to the ANA.
Competence and the Nursing Process
One of the basic expectations for conduct of RNs in the nursery is the competent use of the nursing process, according to AWHONN. There are certain aspects of the nursing process that are vitally important in caring for newborns, because the newborn cannot tell you what hurts or how he feels. Assessment, for example, is a key step that makes use of all a nurse’s faculties -- what she sees, hears, smells or feels. Nurses base their plan of care on the assessment, so skill in this area is vitally important.
Building on the Basics
The National Association of Neonatal Nurses has identified nine basic principles for patient care, similar to the ANA code of ethics. Among these are respecting human rights of all individuals, respecting and supporting family autonomy and ensuring that patients’ and families’ rights and privacy are protected. In addition to taking responsibility for their own practice, NANN is very clear that nursery nurses must protect their own and other patients from other healthcare practitioners who might be incompetent or impaired. A nursery nurse’s responsibility extends beyond the bedside, and she should be active in policy development at the local, state and national level.
Ethical Dilemmas and Conduct
Advanced modern technology has led to ethical dilemmas for nursery nurses, according to a June 2009 article in “Nursing.” This is one of those situations in which the nurse must balance the potential for harm to her patient with the use of technology which may allow an infant to survive, but in a medically fragile, dependent condition that may prevent him from ever going home with his parents. There are no easy answers in these cases, but adhering to a code of conduct that always puts patients first can help the nursery nurse find her way through difficult dilemmas.
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.