Know your new codes of conduct

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New codes of conduct have come into effect for nurses and midwives from 1 March.

The codes, set down by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, establish the legal requirements, professional behaviour and conduct expectations for all nurses and midwives.

The codes cover seven principles: legal compliance; person-centred practice; cultural practice and respectful relationships; professional behaviour; teaching, supervising and assessing; research in health; and health and wellbeing.

The NMBA Chair, Associate Professor Lynette Cusack RN, encouraged all nurses and midwives to get to know the new codes now. Viewing and reflecting on the new codes will count towards CPD hours (see 'Related links' below).

‘All nurses and midwives have their own personal values and beliefs – but the codes of conduct provide specific standards of conduct and behaviour that all nurses and midwives in Australia need to meet,’ Associate Professor Cusack said.

‘These codes provide a foundation for safe practice and give guidance on crucial issues such as bullying and harassment, professional boundaries, and cultural safety.

Nurses and midwives need to meet the standards set in these codes, even if their employer also has a code of conduct.’

New content in the codes includes guidance on:

  • ending a professional relationship 
  • issues relating more specifically to private practice 
  • coordinating care with other practitioners, and 
  • advertising and reporting obligations. 

What else is new in the codes?

Bullying and harassment

The NMBA has responded to calls for specific information on bullying and harassment in the codes of conduct. Under the codes, bullying and harassment is defined as ‘people repeatedly and intentionally using words or actions against someone or a group of people’. Nurses and midwives must never engage in, ignore or excuse bullying and harassment.

The NMBA said that in most circumstances, issues relating to bullying and harassment should be managed by the employer and only where patient safety is directly affected should a complaint be made to the NMBA.

Culturally safe and respectful practice

This requires nurses and midwives to understand how their own culture, values and attitudes influence their interactions with others. 

Nurses and midwives must provide care that is free of bias and racism, and is culturally safe and respectful to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Nurses and midwives must respect diverse cultures, beliefs, gender identities, sexualities and experiences of people, including among team members. 

Professional behaviour

The principles of professional boundaries are now incorporated in the codes of conduct.

Nurses and midwives must recognise the power imbalance between nurses and people in their care and establish and maintain professional boundaries. They also need to avoid potential conflicts and risks of providing care to people with whom they have a pre-existing relationship. Nurses and midwives must avoid sexual relationships with people for whom they have previously or are currently providing care. 

Nurses and midwives must only accept token gifts of minimal value that are freely offered and not accept money or gifts that will benefit them directly or indirectly.

They must not become financially involved with patients through bequests and powers of attorney.

As well as ‘over-involvement’ with patients, nurses and midwives must also be aware of ‘under-involvement’ with patient care through lack of care, disengagement or disrespect.

Health and wellbeing

Nurses and midwives have a responsibility to maintain their own physical and mental health and look out for the health of others.

Teaching, supervising and assessing

This principle sets the clear expectation that nurses and midwives have a responsibility to commit to teaching, supervising and assessing students and other nurses and midwives in order to support the professions and develop the workforce across all contexts of practice. 

It is a professional responsibility to continue to support and grow the professions. 

Related links