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The Moral Code - Ethics in the Workplace

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The Moral Code: Ethics in the Workplace

Self expression is one of the countries founding principles as set forth in the Constitution of the United States. Amendment One of the Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." (The Constitution, December 1791) Our forefathers understood that this was a broad statement and open for interpretation. As such, they incorporated into the Constitution that each and every person has a right to "...Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." (Jefferson, 1776)

Pursuing happiness extends not only to home life but to the workplace as well. The desire of every person is to be treated with respect and dignity by others. This yearning is present every minute, hour, and day of our lives. To be treated fairly and with a sense of worth creates a positive environment where ideas can flourish. This is most important in the workplace simply because there are many different cultural backgrounds intermixing. Understanding the meaning of ethics and how ethical situations can be used as guidelines in navigating common everyday ethical issues in the workplace. (Paul, R. & Elder, L., 2003)

Ethics is described by Paul & Elder (2003) as a set of concepts and principles that guide us determining what behavior helps or harms sentient creatures. (p.2, 2) Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (2005) defines ethics as a set of moral principles or values; the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation Moral principles and ethics are closely related. These values compose our being and governing how we as individuals interact with each other. We will be exploring this further by discussing the following actual experiences:

1) Nursing: Helpful or Hurtful?

2) Is the Customer Right?

Understanding ethics and how it influences the responses and actions of people will hopefully answer the question why a strong moral code is essential to ethical reasoning in the workplace.

Nursing: Helpful or Hurtful?

My mother, Joan, who is a plus size woman, was recently admitted for major surgery. Upon completion of the surgery, the doctor advised her and the nurses to not allow any twisting or quick movements which would cause the staples under her arm to come out. While in the hospital Joan developed an unpleasant case of diarrhea. Following the advice of her doctor, she pushed herself out of bed carefully to not dislocate the staples in her arm. As she was getting out of bed the bile that was distressing her stomach discharged; causing an enormous pool of waste on the floor. She continued on her way to the restroom as feces were still running down her legs and onto the floor with every step. Once inside the small bathroom, she pressed the call button to page the nurse for assistance. Upon arrival of the nurse, my mother explained with much embarrassment, what had happened. She then requested for the nurses assistance to help her get cleaned up. The nurse was displeased with the situation and voiced her disgruntle ness with sarcastic remarks. One such remark was that my mother was an adult and these accidents should not occur. Another remark implied that she would not have this type of care at home and should not expect it in the hospital. The nurse continued to complain about the mess as she was cleaning up.

The nurse then voiced her dissatisfaction of the ordeal to the head nurse. The head nurse quickly proceeded to Joan's room to scold her about the situation and advise her that the outcome would be entirely different if the situation happened again.

Due to the rudeness and unethical behavior of the nurse, Joan refused to ask for help when she was unable to put her shirt on. Fortunately, my sister Sue arrived and questioned why my mother did not page a nurse for help. Angered with the response from my mother, Sue went directly to the Chief of Staff and demanded satisfaction.

Since the Chief of Staff was an ethical gentleman, he promptly apologized for the mistreatment and assured her that disciplinary actions would be taken. One week passed when Joan received a call from the Chief of Staff to inform her that all nurses were mandated to attend an ethical seminar that emphasized patient's rights under hospital care. Not only were the nurses attendance required; the two nurses that attended my mother were suspended without pay for two weeks.

There are several situations in the above example where good ethics were demonstrated. According to an article in the Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing titled Rights of patients, the patient has several rights. A patient has the right to "receive quality medical and nursing care at all times, receive compassionate care, be given respectful care, and be given information about the complaint process." (Miracle, 2004) The nurses who cared for her did not treat my mother with compassion, respect or integrity. The nurses berated her and treated her with disgust. Not only did the nurses not abide by the patients bill of rights, they disregarded their professional responsibility as well.

The National Organization for Human Services has a list of guidelines that any person in the human services field must utilize to "uphold the integrity and ethics of their profession." (National Organization, 2006) The treatment given to my mother by the nurses completely disregarded the following statements set forth in the Ethical Standards of Human Service Professionals (National Organization, 2006):

STATEMENT 2 Human service professionals respect the integrity and welfare of the client at all times. Each client is treated with respect, acceptance and dignity.

STATEMENT 17 Human service professionals provide services without discrimination or preference-based on age, ethnicity, culture, race, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status.

STATEMENT 24 Human service professionals respond appropriately to unethical behavior of colleagues. Usually this means initially talking directly with the colleague and, if no resolution is forthcoming, reporting the colleague's behavior to supervisory or administrative staff and/or to the Professional organization(s) to which the colleague belongs.

STATEMENT 28 Human service professionals act with integrity, honesty, genuineness, and objectivity.

STATEMENT 35 Human service professionals strive to personify those characteristics typically associated



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