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Professional Standards 

As a member of a regulated health profession, a nurse or midwife may be held to a higher standard of conduct than ordinary members of the community. The over-riding responsibility of health professionals is to act always in the interests of our patients, clients or residents (however titled). In particular we must never fail to protect the safety of members of the community.

All citizens, including registered health professionals, are required to adhere to the requirements of legislation. However there are some instances in which a registered health professional would be held to a higher standard of conduct than is required by legislation.

For example, intimate personal conduct or financial transactions may not be illegal between consenting adults. However if one of the adults is a health professional in a professional relationship with the other person (where the other person is a patient, ex-patient or significant other person in the life of a patient), there may still be no breach of any law but the conduct may breach the expected standards of the profession.

Similarly in regard to clinical activities and decision-making, there are instances in which a registered health professional would be held to a higher standard of conduct than an average citizen. It may not be illegal for a non-professional, who knows no better, to undertake certain activities such as provide health advice or counselling, administer medication or dress a wound. However a regulated health professional who has greater knowledge and appreciation of potential adverse consequences, may appreciate that it is not appropriate to undertake the same activities in the particular circumstances. A health professional who fails to conduct herself or himself at the higher standard expected of a health professional, may be guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct.

A further example is that a non-clinical administrator or manager may think it is acceptable to delegate certain aspects of care to family members or to unlicensed care workers but a regulated health professional may appreciate that, in certain circumstances, such delegation is unsafe and would therefore refuse to do so.

Registered nurses, registered midwives and enrolled nurses have an over-riding obligation to protect the interests of patients, clients and residents in their care. Patients, clients or residents are entitled to expect that a registered or enrolled nurse or midwife will conduct herself or himself in accord with the profession's standards even where these standards are higher than those of other persons in the same health or care setting.

Further, being a health professional is not like some other occupations. One does not cease being a health professional when one leaves the workplace. Nurses and midwives are required to be persons of good character and to conduct themselves in accord with the community’s expectations. Behaviour, even though not in the course of professional practice, may still reflect poorly on the profession and may undermine community trust in nurses and midwives.

Registration and enrolment as nurses and midwives is granted under legislation passed by the parliament which is elected by members of the community. The granting of registration or enrolment is accompanied by responsibilities as described above and to act in the interests of members of the community. However the responsibilities that arise from recognition in legislation are accompanied by status in the community. Recognition by the parliament and the community is a source of honour for nursing and midwifery. In surveys of the public, nurses and midwives are regularly rated as very highly trusted. If we betray the trust that the community has placed in us, we may expect to be the subject of complaints and professional disciplinary processes.
Guidelines for Practice

The following documents are intended to provide guidance to nurses and midwives in their practice. It is important for each nurse and midwife to be familiar with the documents that are relevant to their practice. Members of the public are entitled to expect nurses and midwives to conduct themselves in accord with these guidelines and standards.

Copies of the following may be obtained from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council, as applicable. It will frequently be more convenient for nurses and midwives to access the current copies of these documents from the internet.
Link to:
Code of Professional Conduct
Competency Standards
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