IMHO, a test of character and integrity is rising above your legal obligations and duties and doing what is morally and ethically correct although you are not legally obligated to do so.
We live in a time where it is all about the law (this blog is Nursing Law & Order) because you can sue for just about anything these days. A kid gets slapped on the playground now it is suspension from school or expulsion, criminal charges, and a civil suit.
Nurses need to know the law and in particular the practical application of the State Nurse Practice Act and Board of Nursing regulations to everyday practice. This is just a starting point; the bare minimum is the legal. From the legal IMO you can then start to decipher the moral and ethical. In Nursing, the bare legal or barely legal is a matter of perspective.
I make a mighty but still muddled & merely middle class living (I am aspiring to be at the Rick James "I am rich bi$ch" level by my 105 birthday (I just turned 40 on Saturday, July 2nd)) because of "the legal", the gap somewhere between the Nurse Practice Act & Board regs and professional standards and practice and the application to nursing practice and "being" a state licensed nurse 24/7.
24/7 requires thought and understanding and a big picture view.
24/7 means when you see your best friend throw a punch in the bar after the 6th round of beers you do not start swinging and fighting along side of her and the two of you "go out" like Thelma and Louise. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelma_%26_Louise
24/7 means when you get pulled over for drunk driving and you are charged with a DUI, child endangerment, possession of drugs, concealed weapon, and possession of drug paraph., you recognize at some point in the process and actually say "this may be my a## with the BON."
24/7 is 24/7; you are a nurse 24/7. I just renewed by nursing license with the Ohio Nursing Board last week and although there is one person I would really really like to slap, I keep my hands to myself because I am a nurse 24/7 and as a RN (in the Big O only) & a license defense attorney (three states baby) I don't NEED or WANT a DV charge or conviction.
One of my girl friends was arguing with a stranger last month (about the price of gas, the Middle East, and how this impact politics in the US. Why?) when we met for Happy Hour (why are there so many angry folks drinking at Happy Hour anyway?) and I told her, "if you are fighting, I will wait in the car." I am also a lawyer 24/7 and lawyer discipline is another matter.
Every license has benefits and burdens. The benefit of a RN license is the income and career diversity afforded to RNs especially with advanced education or additional experience/expertise and certifications. You can literally write your own ticket in nursing; I am.
The burdens are the legal, ethical, and moral responsibilites, duties, obligations, and liabilities and cross the profession still carries from lack of an entry level to practice, being female dominated, collective bargaining, and from being fractured and operating in environments where nurses have little real control or power. It is always about the money, the power, and the ends & means and the profession still struggles with this and will continue to do so.
On a Law & Order: SVU episode (I love Detective Stabler; he is nuts!!) one of the detectives commented about being a detective and a police officer and being the job 24/7. Police officers are socialized into this circle and we all have heard about the blue line. Where is this socialization in nursing? Are nursing schools churning out soooo many graduates that there is no time for socialization? Just pat your graduates on the head, give them a business card to a local bail bonds chop shop and an outdated copy of the ANA Code of Ethics, and then say "Go Be Somebody."
24/7. This is the responsibility, accountability, and potential liability that you assume when you get your State Board of Nursing issued RN or LPN license. This is what nursing profs need to tell students and what needs to be stressed to practicing LPNs, RNs, and APRNs.
Who role is it to say this anyway? After I complete my Jedi Knight training, I want to assume part of this role in the profession. Which brings me to my next blog post? Nurse, are you just living or are you living by a code and fulfilling your destiny like Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker?
It ain't all peachy or creamy (I want ice cream) in nursing; it is 24/7 with the license.
Why? Look at the State Nursing Board renewal applications questions. Are you a Misdemeanor Mama or the Felony Father? (I am sorry Mom. I had to say it. I am going to Bible Study this Thursday and early morning service on Sunday. One of my grandmother's reads this blog).
Misdemeanors are misdemeanors and a felony is a felony, whether you are on the job or off the job because you are the job when you can care for John Q. Public; you are a nurse 24/7.