Guidelines for Ethical & Professional Conduct for Nursing Students
Nursing is based on the ethical value of a commitment to promoting well-being by providing competent and compassionate care.
Nursing students, when entering their educational program, should be committed to learning and accepting the ethical standards of conduct of the profession. During their educational program, nursing students strive to learn, promote, restore and support health to prevent illness and to relieve suffering. Furthermore, nursing students will reflect on their own values and learn about the profession’s values.
The following guidelines are designed to assist nursing students to provide ethical nursing care and to meet the Faculty’s expectations regarding ethical and professional conduct. The guidelines will help nursing students become reflective, ethical practitioners.
Guidelines and codes are beneficial because they state values, obligations and limitations. These guidelines are designed to help students think about and resolve ethical and professional questions and issues. However, some ethical questions cannot be answered only by reference to a rule or guideline. Therefore, nursing students are encouraged to discuss ethical issues, concerns and questions as they arise with their instructors and student group.
The Faculty of Nursing’s Guidelines for Ethical and Professional Conduct for Nursing Students complement the University of Toronto’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters, the University of Toronto’s Code of Student Conduct, and the Standards of Professional Practice Behaviour for all Health Professional Students. Students are responsible for knowing these documents and complying with the code and guidelines.
Nursing students are engaged in a number of relationships and therefore have obligations to different individuals and groups. Thus, the guidelines are divided into three sections: (i) the nursing student and the client, (ii) the nursing student and other health professionals, and (iii) the nursing student and the profession.
The Nursing Student & Clients
The nursing student is expected to respect the needs and values of clients. The following guidelines will assist the student in meeting this expectation.
- The nursing student should be respectful of client’s values, culture and religion.
- When a nursing student does not wish to provide care to a client for ethical or religious reasons, or because of a conflict in values, the student should discuss the assignment with the instructor as soon as possible. The nursing student must continue providing care until the issue is resolved.
- The nursing student must provide safe, competent care to client(s).
- The nursing student should strive to establish a therapeutic and caring relationship with clients. This professional relationship is based on trust, which must not be violated.
- The nursing student should communicate verbally and non-verbally with clients and families in a professional manner.
- The nursing student should maintain client/family confidentiality. The client or designated other must consent to information being disclosed to his/her family, friends, other individuals and/or health professionals who are not members of the client’s health care team. Nursing students are responsible for knowing the policy and practices regarding disclosure of confidential information at the agency where they are practicing. Information can be shared by the nursing student with the client’s health care team and appropriate Faculty members. Clients/families should not be discussed in public areas. Client/family confidentiality must be maintained in written assignments and student conferences. The general rule is that clients must consent to disclosure of information to any individuals who are not members of the client’s health care team. However, under exceptional circumstances, information can be disclosed without the client’s consent; for example, if the safety of the client, or others, is at serious risk unless specific information is disclosed. Under such circumstances, the nursing student should discuss the situation with his/her instructor. If the instructor is not immediately available, the nursing student should discuss the situation promptly with a responsible person in the clinical setting.
- The nursing student must not be under the influence of substances (e.g., alcohol and illicit drugs) during class or at the clinical placement.
- The nursing student should recognize that attendance at clinical placements is compulsory.
- The nursing student should inform his/her instructor as soon as possible, or according to the manner established by the instructor, if he/she is unable to attend the clinical placement due to illness or extenuating circumstances.
The Nursing Student & Other Health Care Professionals
The following guidelines will assist the nursing student to develop and maintain professional relationships and ethical conduct with colleagues.
- The nursing student is a member of the client’s health team. Therefore, the nursing student should accept responsibility to work co-operatively with peers, the instructor and other health care professionals to provide competent and safe client care.
- In the event that a nursing student has reason to believe that another student or health care professional is not giving competent and safe care, and/or is giving care under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, the student’s first obligations are to protect the client from harm, to ensure that client dignity is respected, and to inform the instructor of the situation immediately.
- If the instructor is not available immediately, the nursing student should promptly inform a responsible person at the clinical setting of the misconduct. Both misconduct and failure to report misconduct can result in a client being harmed psychologically and physically. It is left to the student’s discretion whether he/she also wants to discuss the issue with the student(s) or health professional(s) involved.
The Nursing Student & the Profession
The nursing student represents the nursing profession. Therefore, the student has an obligation to know and appreciate the profession’s values and also, to incorporate them into his/her practice.
The following guidelines will assist the nursing student to meet this expectation.
- The nursing student should understand the Canadian Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses and the College of Nurses of Ontario’s Ethical Standards and Guidelines.
- The nursing student should refer to these codes when making decisions about an ethical issue.
- The nursing student should discuss ethical and professional concerns with his/her peers, instructors and other Faculty members.
Social Media Conduct
“Twitter is a great place to tell the world what you’re thinking before you’ve had a chance to think about it.” – Chris Pirillo in Canadian Nurses Protective Society
It is most important to consider your activities on social media. Your conduct on social media reflects not just you as an individual, but also Bloomberg Nursing, the University of Toronto, and most importantly, the nursing profession as a whole.
Numerous organizations and regulatory bodies have prepared guidelines, articles and opinion pieces on nurses’ conduct on social media. Several of these resources are provided below. We encourage you to review them.
Please note, these links are provided as a sample resource, and are not a complete representation of the information available. Your placement agencies, clinical partners, or employers may also have information on social media. We encourage you to ask your HR department, clinical instructor or preceptor for more information.
Social Media Security
When posting to social media, there are two important points to remember:
- Nothing on the internet is 100% secure; and
- When you delete something from your account, it does not mean that it is actually deleted.
Users of social media should always be aware of how their personal information is being accessed. Many social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, are accessible to various web search tools, such as Google and Yahoo! Any postings that have not been protected, including status updates and pictures, can turn up in web searches. This has contributed to a rise of identity theft and other fraudulent behaviour. So the question you should be asking is ‘how safe is my social media account?’
Users of social media should considering the following guidelines:
- Acquaint yourself with the privacy and security settings of your account.
- Ensure you have a secure password. It is recommended that passwords be a minimum 8 characters in length and contain at least 1 upper case letter, 1 lower case letter, 1 numeric and 1 non-alphanumeric (e.g. !, @, $, etc)
- Do not display all your personal data; e.g. exclude the year of your birth, ensure your e-mail address and telephone number are only visible to those you want to see it.
- In the security setting of your account, set the default for all posting to ‘private”; in Facebook you can distinguish between what is public and what only your ‘acquaintances’ or ‘close friends’ can view on a per instance basis.
- It is highly recommended that you configure your setting to control what others post to your account. In Facebook this is located in the Timeline and Tagging setting. By doing so, you can review what others have tagged you in before it appears on your page.
For more information on securing your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram accounts, please visit the links below: