Nursing and the Law
There have been many different definitions of nursing throughout the years. Florence Nightingale in 1859 defined nursing as having “charge of the personal health of somebody . . . , and what nursing has to do . . . is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him” (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2010a). As the nursing profession evolved, the definition had to as well to encompass all of what nursing had become. Today, the ANA (2010a) defines 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.” The nursing role continues to evolve in the healthcare field. Nurses are more involved in patient care decision making, they are gaining more autonomy and they have more professional accountability than ever before (Tzeng, Yin, & Schneider, 2013). This paper will discuss a registered nurses obligation to provide the public with safe and competent care, including the challenges they may face if they fail to provide care under their standards of practice.
Protection for the Public
The practice of nursing requires specialized knowledge, skill, and independent decision making. The level of autonomy can pose a risk of harm to the public if practiced by professionals who are unprepared or incompetent (Russell, 2012). The state is required to protect its citizens from harm. States are able to provide this protection in the form of reasonable laws to regulate nursing. Each state government has enacted laws which protect the public’s health and welfare by overseeing and ensuring the safe practice of nursing. Each state was able to obtain this protection by instating Boards of Nursing (Russell, 2012).
Boards of Nursing were formed over a century ago with the goal to protect the public and regulate the nursing practice. There are currently sixty-one nursing boards in the United States. Boards of Nursing are ultimately governed by their state Nurse Practice Acts (Brous, 2012). Boards of Nursing are responsible for regulations and rules of nursing within their state; some of the duties performed are as follows: Enforcing the NPA, accrediting nursing education and developing practice standards, policies, administrative rules and regulations (Brekken & Evans, 2011, p.32). According to Brekken and Evens (2011), the first nursing regulation laws were passed in 1903 in New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia. These laws were created to protect the public by establishing minimal educational requirements and determining competence by examination (Brekken & Evans, 2011). Laws and regulations have become more involved, in-depth, and comprehensive as the nursing profession has established itself in society.
Nurse Practice Acts
Every state has implemented individual Nurse Practice...