The Law, Ethics and Professional Guidelines that Govern the Nursing Practice

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Understanding Law, Ethics, Professional Guidelines and their Relationship to Nursing Practice


The nursing practice is guided by an adherence to the code of conduct articulated by the law as well as the industry’s ethical values and professional guidelines. The provision of human services requires that sensitivity to personal needs, cultural backgrounds, privacy, and confidentiality is upheld to ensure quality services are provided while fostering the sustainability and growth of the healthcare sector. The proficiency in nursing practice demands that practitioners develop a culture that upholds the ethical values and the respect for the law within and outside the work setting (In Butts & In Rich, 2018). Law, ethics and professional guidelines in the nursing practice benefit both the nurses by supporting service delivery, safety and career progression and the public in ensuring that standardized services are provided and accessed. This paper will analyse a scenario whereby, a friend is unable to attend to a class and asks that their signature is forged in the class attendance list to develop an understanding of how the law, ethics and professional guidelines govern the nursing practice.

Immediate Action

The immediate action upon receiving an appeal to forge a signature in the class attendance list from a student who is not able to attend class is to inform the student of the legal position of their conduct as far as the law, ethics and professional guidelines governing the nursing practice are concerned. The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (2018) provides for the code of conduct for nurses which asserts on the need for effective communication. Here, the law compels an individual to ‘endeavour to confirm a person understands any information communicated to them’ (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2018). The nursing practice requires individuals to uphold the accepted conduct, however, in this case, the student failing to attend class ought to be treated as a person in need of care to establish the underlying facts and make the correct decision. As far as decision-making is concerned, the nursing conduct requires one to pursue a person-centered initiative that supports the concerns in a manner that incorporate the preferences and the values of the target person. The primary step of informing the student that the request to get the signature in the class attendance list forged is against the laws, ethics and professional principles guiding nursing practice and if the given individual is aware of the implications of the conduct will serve to allow the student to reconsider the move. Also, the ability to provide the information will act as a mitigation process to prevent the transfer of the appeal for the forgery to another student in that, dismissing the request without providing the reasons will prompt the individual to approach another student and make sure that the forging is done.

The registered nurse standards require that practitioners in the given field exercise critical thinking and analysis and apply the ethical framework in making decisions ((Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2017). It is evident that the provision of information surrounding the conduct of the student is not final and subsequent questions will be undertaken, however, the step serves to create an environment of awareness and room for mitigation on the impending consequences of the act. Also, the principle of person-centered practice according to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (2018) requires one to provide leadership to ensure that other employees observe compliance with their inherent obligations. In this context, the student is failing to uphold an obligation to attend to class and magnifying the misconduct by seeking an unethical practice to cover-up the unprofessionalism. The provision of information will reflect leadership and provide the basis for the subsequent action.

Subsequent Action

The code of conduct for nurses requires that individuals within the practice uphold legal compliance at all times. The subsequent action regarding the scenario at hand will be the reporting of the incident to the relevant authority who in this case is the lecturer of the given class unit. The legal compliance in nursing practice vests an individual with an obligation to report incidences provided in the National laws and any other applicable legislation. Failing to attend to class is against the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) provision that requires nursing practitioners to complete the stipulated number of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) applicable to the confines of the practice (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2018).

The reporting of the matter to the relevant authority upholds the legal, ethical and professional guidelines that govern nursing.  The law asserts that an individual is prohibited from participating in unlawful behaviour and one is required to understand that unlawful acts are deemed as unprofessional and have implications towards an individual’s registration for nursing practice.  The failure of the given student to attend class can be explained to the relevant authority without presenting dire consequences in that, the missing class does not amount to institutional misconduct as the missed lectures can be addressed through a make-up lecture. However, the call for the forgery of the signature is an unlawful conduct that will hold the perpetrator and the accomplice in the act as liable for the violation of the set rules. Also, the law requires that a full nursing practitioner ought to have completed the required Continuous Professional Development (CPD) which includes attending the required number of classes during school. While it could be common for individuals to cover-up for classmates when they miss classes, the act is unlawful and jeopardizes the professionalism in the nursing practice. Failure to report the matter also holds one culpable of a professional misconduct in that, the law is clear about the mandatory reporting (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2018). The reporting of the incident will act to protect the interests of both the approached and the missing students. Reporting of the incidence will serve to ensure that further guidelines, advice, and communication on the implications of the conduct are provided by a person who is in a more informed position regarding the laws, ethics and professional guidelines that govern the practice of nursing.

The Applicable Sections of the Australian Nurse Registered Standards for Practice

The principle1 which is in legal compliance in the nursing practice is applicable for the given scenario. The approached student in the scenario has an obligation to abide by any reporting obligation including the creation of the awareness to the lecturer about the conduct of the student who has failed to attend the class. The individual missing class also has an obligation to attend class as it is part of the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) required for the registration and practice as a nurse. Also, the value of lawful behaviour under the legal compliance clause of the Australian nurse registered standards for practice is applicable in the case. The missing class without a valid reason and the request for forgery of the signature in the class attendance list amount to professional misconduct which is prohibited by the law guiding the nursing practice (Bultas et al., 2017). The student being requested to forge the signature in the class attendance list is also liable for unprofessional conduct upon yielding to the appeal. Also, the scenario is guided by the value of mandatory reporting under the principle 1 which is in legal compliance. While the requested individual ought to take the first step of informing the missing student of the legal, ethical and professional implications of the conduct, the nursing practice standards require that the incident is reported to the relevant authorities.

The Principle 2 of the Australian Nurse Registered Standard for Practice is applicable to the scenario as provided by the clauses on nursing practice and decision-making. the legal, ethical and professional guidelines require one to act with leadership thus compelling the requested student to ensure that the missing individual complies with the obligations bestowed upon them. The act of informing the student of the implications and reporting the matter to the relevant authority upholds the nursing practice standards. It is apparent that the legal, ethical and professional guidelines in nursing do not confine the need to uphold the required standards on an individual but also a responsibility to ensure that other practitioners also uphold professionalism. The clause on decision making under the principle 2 of the Australian nurse registered standards for practice also apply for the given scenario in that, a dilemma occurs in the actions to be taken and a person-centered approach, as well as critical thinking, is required for the management of the occurrence. The decision to be made ought to ensure that the missing student is assisted to overcome imminent development of unprofessionalism within the law and professional guidelines. The conduct poses dire implications to the development of the two students in the career path for nursing practice (International Council of Nurses, 2012). The requested student in the scenario is required to refer to the legal, ethical and professional guidelines governing the nursing practice to ensure that an appropriate decision is made.

The legal and Future Implications of the Behaviour

Failure to manage the unprofessional conduct depicted by the student in requesting for the forgery of class attendance list is a criminal act and attracts legal redress based on the manner in which the institution will address the matter. Forgery is a criminal conduct under the penal code and individuals face consequences including fines or incarceration. Here, both the student missing class and the one being approached face legal consequences in the event that the given act is committed. Upon legal action, nursing practitioners face deregistration or dismissal from nursing practice. It is paramount that the act is managed before it translates into a criminal case. However, it is important to note that ‘intent’ to commit a crime is treated seriously in a court of law and the reporting of the incident to the relevant authorities present a legal dilemma for the perpetrator in the scenario. The provisions of the Australian Nurse Registered Standards for Practice provide the legal position in determining the criminality of the forgery intentions when the law demands that individuals complete the required Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Also, the provisions of the penal code provide the legal grounds for the determination of the forgery or attempted or an attempt of the act in Australia.

It is also important to note that the success in the quest to curb the act and provide the requisite advice and guidance to the student will ensure that the prevalence of the misconduct does not occur again in the future. The behaviour can re-emerge in the future during the practice whereby, instances of forging the patient medical records and billing documents to cover for the failure to provide medical attention as required. Also, missing class poses the risk of releasing unqualified nurse into the market thus presenting a probable compromise to the patient’s health. The forgery attempt depicts illegal, unethical and unprofessional conduct which can be translated as an indication of unfitness of the given individual to serve in a field that requires utmost adherence to the set guiding laws and guidelines. While the consequences of missing a class can be viewed as a misdemeanor, the prevalence of the conduct provides grounds for personality assessment and creates prospects of the probable future conduct (Birks et al., 2018).  There is need to ensure that the conduct is addressed to prevent the prevalence of the same unprofessionalism in future when lives of individuals will be at stake.


Professionalism is an important element towards establishing a successful career in the nursing field. Understanding the law, ethics and professional guidelines governing the nursing practice allows an individual to provide services in an enriching and fulfilling environment while ensuring the safety of the patients. Adherence and the development of a culture that upholds values and desirable code of conduct develop from the early stages of the nursing practice including schooling. Engaging in illegal, unethical and unprofessional activities pose dire consequences that could include termination of careers or criminal charges and penalties including incarceration. Understanding the law, ethics and professional guidelines allow individuals to develop successful careers and attain satisfaction.


Birks, M., Smithson, J., Antney, J., Zhao, L., & Burkot, C. (2018). Exploring the paradox: A cross-sectional study of academic dishonesty among Australian nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 65, 96-101. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2018.02.040

Bultas, M. W., Schmuke, A. D., Davis, R. L., & Palmer, J. L. (2017). Crossing the “line”: College students and academic integrity in nursing. Nurse Education

Today, 56, 57-62.  DOI:

In Butts, J. B., & In Rich, K. L. (2018). Philosophies and theories for advanced nursing practice. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2018

International Council of Nurses.(2012).The ICN code of ethics for nurses. Retrieved from:

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. (2018).  Advance copy – code of conduct for nurses. Retrieved  from: Nursing-and-Midwifery-Board---Code---Advance-copy---Code-of-conduct-for-nurses---Effective-1-March-2018(1).pdf

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. (2017). Registered nurse standards for practice. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from NMBA website:

October 13, 2023

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