Both codes set out the legal requirements, professional behaviour and conduct expectations for all midwives and nurses, in all practice settings, within Australia.
The codes describe the principles of professional behaviour that guide safe practice, and clearly outline the conduct expected of nurses and midwives by their colleagues and the broader community.
Despite having their own personal beliefs and values, the codes set specific standards and expectations for adoption by all nurses and midwives within their practice.
The codes are consistent with the National Law. However, where there is any actual or perceived conflict between the code and any law, the law takes precedence.
Specifically the codes are used:
- To support individual nurses in the delivery of safe practice and fulfilling their professional roles
- To help the protection of the public in the setting and maintaining of standards which ensure safe and effective nursing practice
- To evaluate the professional conduct of nurses and midwives. Serious or repeated failure to abide by the code may have consequences for registration or be considered for unsatisfactory professional performance, unprofessional conduct or professional misconduct
- As a resource for activities aiming to enhance the culture of professionalism in the Australian Health System, for example in policy, management, education or training.
Applying the codes to your practice context
Underpinning the code, is the expectation that nurses and midwives will exercise their professional judgement to deliver the best possible outcomes in practice. While the principles of the codes apply to all types of nursing and midwifery practice in all contexts and in any role or function, the codes do not provide specific examples of how they are applied in all contexts.
Within each context, there is a complex web of interactions, processes and resources that may influence the way people behave. Specific activities or behaviours may vary or need to be modified depending on the environment, context and area of practice. Variation of behaviour will also be required at a practitioner/ patient level because of different needs to ensure the principles are met.
Reflection, discussion and debate on the principles is required at an individual practitioner, local unit and organisational level. Whenever possible the input of patients/ women and their families must be included to identify the practice activities that have the greatest impact on safe, person/ woman centred practice. Consideration of the principles will ensure that practitioners are aware of the principles and understand and agree the behaviours that are expected of them to demonstrate they are applying the principles in their context of practice.
To reinforce the expected practice behaviours, the codes of conduct together with the standards for practice should also be used to review and provide feedback about the performance of practitioners during annual reviews, awards for best practice and performance management. Environments that had a positive approach to engaging with regulatory standards and conduct expectations in the workplace are also those that have clear systems and processes in place that encouraged the identification of where risks may occur.
To ensure that you are applying the principles in the code of conduct, reflect on the standards prior to renewal of your registration and identify areas you want to focus on for your continuing professional development for the next year. It is also important to review the principles when you have been involved in, or observe an adverse incident or near miss. The principles in the codes and the standards for practice can provide direction for improvement or feedback. Sometimes there may not be a single event but a feeling that you have had a ‘bad day’ when practice has not gone well, or a ‘good day’ that has gone well despite challenging and unusual events. Reflecting on these days and the principles of good conduct and practice can assist you and the unit in which you work to be more resilient and more consistently provide high quality care.
How well do you know the domains, principles and elements within the codes; test yourself!
It is essential that you know and understand the codes and how to apply them within your practice. Not only are they underpinned by legislation, but upon registration, you will need to sign a declaration which affirms that you are abiding by the codes.
Test how well you know and understand the Code of Conduct developed and approved by the national Board and ensure your renewal declaration is accurate.
Please answer true or false for each of the statements below and check your answers here
1. The codes of conduct describe the behaviour expected of nurses and midwives in clinical practice
2. The four main domains described in the code of conduct are;
- Practice legally
- Practice safely, effectively and collaboratively
- Act with professional integrity
- Promote health and wellbeing
3. The legal obligations for all registered nurses and midwives in NSW can be found in sections 129, 130, 131 and 141 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) No 86a.
4. The codes describe when it is acceptable for a practitioner to receive an expensive gift from a person or woman who wants to thank them for their care.
5. The codes require nurses and midwives to act to reduce the effect of fatigue and stress on their health and their ability to provide safe practice.
6. The code states that all nurses and midwives must document and report concerns if they believe the practice environment is compromising the health and safety of people receiving care.
7. The code states it is the responsibility of managers to create opportunities for students or nurses and midwives under supervision to learn.
8. There are 10 principles described in the code of conduct.
9. The codes specify that nurses and midwives must not transmit, share, reproduce or post any person’s or woman’s information or images, even if the person is not directly named or identified, without having first gained written and informed consent.
10. One of the elements of the codes is ‘advertising and professional representation’ which states that nurses and midwives must be honest and transparent when describing their education, qualifications, previous occupations and registration status
The answers are available here but it is important that you also review the relevant code if you have not done so previously.