New national code of ethics for nurses and midwives

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council has released new national codes of ethics and professional conduct for nurses and midwives, outlining appropriate moral, ethical and professional behaviour.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council’s new national codes of ethics and professional conduct for nurses and midwives were launched at Parliament House, Canberra, in August.

Senator Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, and Rosemary Bryant, Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, launched the new codes, which not only establish strengthened standards of accountability for nurses and midwives but also create an excellent platform for implementation of the proposed national registration and accreditation system that will oversee nurses, midwives, doctors, dentists and other health professionals from 2010.

The codes are the result of a joint project between the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council (ANMC), the Australian Nursing Federation, the Royal College of Nursing, Australia and the Australian College of Midwives. The revised nurses’ code of ethics and conduct will cover more than 200,000 nurses practising nationally and, for the first time, Australia’s 15,000 midwives will come under their own separate codes.

The codes provide an outline for appropriate moral, ethical and professional behaviour for nurses and midwives. They also underpin legislative and educational standards in each state and territory and offer clear mechanisms for Nursing and Midwifery Regulatory Authorities’ management of professional misconduct and other disciplinary matters.

Critically, the codes provide the public with plain English explanations of the behaviour and conduct they can expect from nurses and midwives, and clearly present to the general community nursing’s and midwifery’s commitment to safe, ethical and professional practice.

ANMC Chief Executive Officer Karen Cook said the decision to strengthen the nurses’ codes of ethics and conduct reflected the growing need for transparency and open disclosure in healthcare, while the development of separate codes for midwives recognised the distinct practices of the midwifery profession.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, said the new codes were an important step forward for the profession.

‘The revised National Code of Ethics and Conduct for Nurses, and the new Code for Midwives, are vital resources for nurses and midwives practising in an increasingly complex profession,’ she said.

‘As health professionals, nurses and midwives are expected to uphold higher standards of behaviour and conduct in all domains of their professional lives than would be expected from general members of the community.

‘We are particularly excited about the long overdue code of ethics and conduct specific to midwives. We hope all midwives and nurses will participate in the practise and promotion of these guidelines and use them in the development of our profession and future policy.’

Code of Ethics for Nurses

  1. Nurses value quality nursing care for all people.
  2. Nurses value respect and kindness for self and others.
  3. Nurses value the diversity of people.
  4. Nurses value access to quality nursing and health care for all people.
  5. Nurses value informed decision making.
  6. Nurses value a culture of safety in nursing and health care.
  7. Nurses value ethical management of information.
  8. Nurses value a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable environment promoting health and wellbeing.

Code of Professional Conduct for Nurses

  1. Nurses practise in a safe and competent manner.
  2. Nurses practise in accordance with the standards of the profession and broader health system.
  3. Nurses practise and conduct themselves in accordance with laws relevant to the profession and practice of nursing.
  4. Nurses respect the dignity, culture, ethnicity, values and beliefs of people receiving care and treatment, and of their colleagues.
  5. Nurses treat personal information obtained in a professional capacity as private and confidential.
  6. Nurses provide impartial, honest and accurate information in relation to nursing care and health care products.
  7. Nurses support the health, wellbeing and informed decision making of people requiring or receiving care.
  8. Nurses promote and preserve the trust and privilege inherent in the relationship between nurses and people receiving care.
  9. Nurses maintain and build on the community’s trust and confidence in the nursing profession.
  10. Nurses practise nursing reflectively and ethically.

Code of Ethics for Midwives

  1. Midwives value quality midwifery care for each woman and her infant(s).
  2. Midwives value respect and kindness for self and others.
  3. Midwives value the diversity of people.
  4. Midwives value access to quality midwifery care for each woman and her infant(s).
  5. Midwives value informed decision-making.
  6. Midwives value a culture of safety in midwifery care.
  7. Midwives value ethical management of information.
  8. Midwives value a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable environment promoting health and wellbeing.

Code of Professional Conduct for Midwives

  1. Midwives practise in a safe and competent manner.
  2. Midwives practise in accordance with the standards of the profession and broader health system.
  3. Midwives practise and conduct them-selves in accordance with laws relevant to the profession and practice of midwifery.
  4. Midwives respect the dignity, culture, values and beliefs of each woman and her infant(s) in their care and the woman’s partner and family, and of colleagues.
  5. Midwives treat personal information obtained in a professional capacity as private and confidential.
  6. Midwives provide impartial, honest and accurate information in relation to midwifery care and health care products.
  7. Midwives focus on a woman’s health needs, her expectations and aspirations, supporting the informed decision making of each woman.
  8. Midwives promote and preserve the trust and privilege inherent in the relationship between midwives and each woman and her infant(s).
  9. Midwives maintain and build on the community’s trust and confidence in the midwifery profession.
  10. Midwives practise midwifery reflectively and ethically.

Fuller explanations are set out in the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council booklets, which can be downloaded from: www.anmc.org.au