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The importance of professional accountability

Davis, Charlotte BSN, RN, CCRN

doi: 10.1097/01.NME.0000525557.44656.04
Department: Editorial

Clinical Editor • Nursing made Incredibly Easy!

Surgical-Trauma ICU Nurse Educator • Ocala Regional Medical Center • Ocala, Fla.

Clinical Adjunct Faculty Member • Clayton State University • Morrow, Ga.

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In 2016, nursing was voted the most trusted profession for the 15th year in a row. It's vital that we maintain this level of trust in our profession with each and every healthcare encounter. This means being accountable for our practice, work environment, and patient safety. The American Nursing Association's Code of Ethics defines professional accountability as being “answerable to oneself and others for one's own actions.” Not only do we hold high clinical practice and ethical standards for ourselves, but we must also be willing to accept professional responsibility when or if deviations from care standards occur.

Nurses regularly face daily time challenges and continually evolving job demands. We're often asked to balance increased workloads with higher acuity patient assignments, greater nurse-patient ratios, and organizational needs. We must avoid workarounds, instead utilizing protocols and processes that are linked to positive clinical outcomes. This requires us to take a proactive, collaborative approach to evaluate staff skill mix and match our skill levels with patient needs to ensure that each patient is provided with the safest and best-quality care possible.

To meet the growing healthcare needs of patients who are living longer with chronic illnesses and complex disease processes, we must be professionally accountable for expanding our clinical skill set and consistently implementing gold standard evidence-based practice findings to guide our nursing interventions. Ongoing clinical competency requires active participation to attain and maintain the skills necessary to provide exceptional care for our patient population. Be present in the moment during each professional training session, without personal distractors. This focused interaction allows us to clarify key points that may impact patient safety and outcomes. Act as a mentor and offer assistance to your peers who are learning to perform new tasks to increase their confidence and also validate whether their practice is in compliance with organizational standards.

Each year, we lose more of our experienced Baby Boomer nurses to retirement. As new graduate nurses enter our clinical areas, we have the responsibility to model professional behaviors, with patient-centered care as our focus rather than a task-based environment. As patient advocates, we must also exemplify cultural competence, with the goal of returning each patient to an optimal level of wellness, honoring the patient's wishes, and providing the highest level of comfort when the patient decides to transition to palliative care.

Although our professional accountability allows us to celebrate our successes, it also demands that we be honest and forthcoming when an error or near miss occurs. When this happens, we should embrace a root cause analysis approach to identify system failures rather than using a punitive approach. Utilizing internal safeguards allows us to deliver the right intervention to the right patient at the right time, every time.

Join me in the journey to advance our profession through our clinical expertise, critical-thinking processes, and professional accountability.

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