Legal and ethical aspects of nursing practice in selected private hospitals in the Western Cape Metropolitan Area
The current shortage of nurses has reached crisis proportions in South Africa and the effects of decreased numbers of health professionals are enormous. This results in far-reaching consequences for the health industry. An increased use of less-skilled personnel, in an attempt to meet the health care needs, impacts negatively on quality care. Personnel are often utilised outside their scope of practice, creating a high-risk therapeutic environment for the patients and health care workers alike. Consequently, the nursing managers and employers of nurses are currently faced with major challenges in ensuring that the nurses practise their profession within a safe and healthy environment, and within the legal and ethical framework of the nursing profession. For the purpose of this study the researcher decided to explore legal and ethical aspects influencing the clinical practice of the nurse. Specific objectives were set for the study. • Are nurses functioning outside their scope of practice? • Do nurses exercise their nursing right? • Do nurses function within ethical and legal guidelines? • Do caregivers function as nurses? • Do nurses still believe in the nursing philosophy? • Are nurses exploited in their area of work? • How much overtime do nurses work? These objectives were met through an in-depth explorative descriptive research design with a quantitative approach to explore legal and ethical aspects in the nursing practice. A stratified sample was drawn of all categories of nurses in selected private hospitals in the Western Cape Metropolitan area. Through the use of a questionnaire, data was collected personally by the researcher. Data analysis techniques that were used were based on descriptive and explorative procedures. Data was compressed in frequencies, percentages, means and standard deviations. The Chi-square test was applied. Findings include the following: • 53% of enrolled nursing assistants do not function under indirect supervision. • 40% of caregivers assist nurses with interventional nursing care. • Nurses still believe in the philosophy of the nursing profession. • The nurse’s rights are in contradiction with the patient’s rights (p = 0.08). • Nurses feel exploited in certain areas of work, depending on their qualifications. • Nurses do recommend the profession (p = 0.043). • Enrolled nursing assistants do not respect other religions (p = 0.04). • Nurses feel free to discuss the patient’s progress with the doctor depending on the nurses’ years of experience (p = 0.03). • 23% of nurses love to care for their patients. Recommendations were made based on the findings. • The patient approach should be respectful, not judgemental, accepting the patient’s right to self-autonomy. • Nurses should realise their autonomous role in addressing concerns. • A staff mix should be utilised that facilitates safe and professional nursing care. • Unfavourable or unsociable working conditions in some units such as the theatre should be addressed. • Managers should match the work load with a proper skills mix and competency. • Nursing practice should take place within the professional and statutory scope of practice of the nurse. • Nurses should keep up to date with knowledge through continuous professional development. • Caregivers should be regulated, installing the nursing philosophy and ethics into their practice.