Sask Polytech and U of R SCBScN student tending to a patient. Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Sask Polytech and U of R SCBScN student tending to a patient. Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

A pledge for ethical care

Foundations of Care class teaches students the value of professional and ethical nursing

Each year, at the end of November, a new group of nursing students stand together to say nine powerful statements as a pledge to professionalism in their chosen career and providing ethical care. As part of the Foundations of Care: A Developing Professional class, it marks the beginning of a lifelong dedication to principled practice and knowledge.

"Professionalism and ethical care is foundational and integral to skilled nursing practice," says Chris Barlow, program head for the Saskatchewan Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing (SCBScN) in Saskatoon. "It's about putting patients and families first, making informed decisions based on ethics and values, being open minded and having a spirit of inquiry."

Fostering integrity, one of Saskatchewan Polytechnic's four core values, is at the root of the class, which enables students to develop a deep understanding of what it means to be a nurse from both a professional and ethical perspective. Through a number of educational strategies, including reflective writing, guest speakers and case study discussions, students are given a safe space to openly reflect on the values at stake in their care practice.

"Research has shown that students who were required to work through ethical dilemmas in their nursing education developed a higher level of moral reasoning than students who did not," says Barlow
Course faculty, Sharon Misfeldt, says teaching ethical decision-making skills is about providing a safe space to test their knowledge.

"Life experience counts for a lot when individuals are confronted with conflicts but many of our young students have yet to experience this," says Misfeldt. "Our course provides the knowledge and experience on how to handle ethical decision making by allowing our students to practise real-life case scenarios in a safe environment free from prejudice and conflict."

"Through this method, students can use their knowledge on standards of care gained from classroom instruction and play out different scenarios again and again until they understand the most appropriate means of dealing with many different types of situations," says Misfeldt.

The pledge ceremony, which includes awarding ceremonial pins to students, affirms their commitment to the nursing profession and its foundational values. Designed specifically for the SCBScN program, the ceremony takes place right before they begin studies in a clinical setting - a crucial point in their educational and career journey.

"We are importing the message to all of our students that they, along with all nurses, hold great responsibility to maintain the public trust," says Barlow. "I can think of few other professions that are so proud to publicly proclaim their dedication to their career, and this ceremony commemorates their step into the profession."

"Our goal is to produce morally accountable practitioners who are skilled in ethical decision making," says Barlow. "Students need ethical frameworks to navigate an increasingly complex health-care system."

Learn more about the SCBScN program. The SCBScN program is offered jointly by Sask Polytech and the University of Regina.

The SCBScN is accredited by the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing.
This is the second instalment of a four-part series highlighting the core values at Saskatchewan Polytechnic values: excellence, respect, integrity and sustainability.

Integrity: We are committed to being accountable and transparent. We are honest with one another. We hold ourselves to high standards of ethical behaviour and take responsibility for our actions.