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Ethics for Charge Nurses in Frontline Leadership

This is an excerpt from Charge Nurse Leader Program Builder.

Like your practice, your frontline leadership requires that you adhere to ethical principles (ANA, 2015). There is value added when you practice within your professional code of ethics and abide by policies, facility ethics guidelines, and legal standards, such as employee confidentiality. You often serve as advocate, negotiator, protector, preceptor, and counselor to team members, patients, and families. Additionally, you help new staff members settle into their new roles and positions and may preceptor or mentor students completing clinical assignments on your unit.

A code of ethics is a set of principles of conduct within an organization that guides decision-making and behavior (Makaroff, Storch, Pauly, & Newton, 2014). Applying ethical, legal, and policy rules is essential to the safe, effective nursing practice and leadership. Most ethics codes specify that members conduct themselves honestly, fairly, competently, and justly.

Ethics exercise: This exercise will help you consider some of these potential ethical questions and principles you may encounter as a frontline leader and ways to anticipate them with proactive problem solving (Gantt, 2014):

  • Read your specialty practice or profession’s code of ethics: What issues are discussed? What was the outcome? What might be done differently?
  • Draw on personal, practical, lived experiences: What about a situation or question was troubling? Review the Choice and Awareness Model and consider how it might apply to the ethics of the discussion or situation. This model offers one approach for ethical decision-making and working through ethical dilemmas. What other models have you used?
  • Look through books and journals on ethics that include situations testing personal or professional values, beliefs, or morals in how to perform work or interact with co-workers, colleagues, or customers/clients/patients. How do these examples fit situations you encountered during a preceptorship or mentorship? How will your decisions be affected by the ethical choices made by those in the books or journals?

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Charge Nurse Exemplary Roles: The Icing on the Cake

Charge nurse is a term that has been around since the early 1980s and has often been used interchangeably with other terms, such as unit supervisor or shift supervisor. Charge nurses are accountable to the organization, direct care providers, and patients. They must be sufficiently trained in regulatory requirements such as The Joint Commission’s standards, and they must be adequately familiar with and trained in organizational policies and procedures so that the delivery and coordination of patient care meet organizational expectations.

Aside from the traditional roles charge nurses hold, here is a list of a few of the exemplary roles they also take on:

Educators: The educator role is more than just acting as a resource for the patient care staff. Charge nurses who develop skills as an educator can help bring the patient care team to another level by assisting with staff orientation, equipment, and procedural in-services, updating team members about new clinical practice changes, and helping plan for new education programs based on needs assessments. [more]