Safe and competent nursing care: An argument for a minimum standard?
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Tønnessen, Siri, Scott, Anne, & Nortvedt, Per. (2020). Safe and competent nursing care: An argument for a minimum standard? Nursing Ethics. doi:10.1177/0969733020919137
There is no agreed minimum standard with regard to what is considered safe, competent nursing care. Limited resources and organizational constraints make it challenging to develop a minimum standard. As part of their everyday practice, nurses have to ration nursing care and prioritize what care to postpone, leave out, and/or omit. In developed countries where public healthcare is tax-funded, a minimum level of healthcare is a patient right; however, what this entails in a given patient's actual situation is unclear. Thus, both patients and nurses would benefit from the development of a minimum standard of nursing care. Clarity on this matter is also of ethical and legal concern. In this article, we explore the case for developing a minimum standard to ensure safe and competent nursing care services. Any such standard must encompass knowledge of basic principles of clinical nursing and preservation of moral values, as well as managerial issues, such as manpower planning, skill-mix, and time to care. In order for such standards to aid in providing safe and competent nursing care, they should be in compliance with accepted evidence-based nursing knowledge, based on patients' needs and legal rights to healthcare and on nurses' codes of ethics. That is, a minimum standard must uphold a satisfactory level of quality in terms of both professionalism and ethics. Rather than being fixed, the minimum standard should be adjusted according to patients' needs in different settings and may thus be different in different contexts and countries.
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