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Nursing Standards: A Nurse’s Scope of Practice and Standards

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  • Category: Nursing

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Nursing Standards: A Nurse’s Scope of Practice and Standards As Americans, each individual is required to follow the laws and regulations. Each country, state, and local town has set up its own specific laws. Also certain professions have specific laws and regulation to follow in order to ensure safety. The purpose of this paper is to identify and examine the scope of practice and professional responsibilities of a Registered Nurse (RN) working in Pennsylvania, along with evaluating how the standards and codes for professional nursing established by the American Nurses Association (ANA) have influenced nursing practice. Scope of Practice

According to Professional Issues in Nursing, “Each country (or state in the United States) has an equivalent document to a Nurses Act that gives legislative power to a nurse registration board (Huston 2010, p.205).” The Pennsylvania code has established specific regulations regarding RN scope of practice and requirements for licensure initially and throughout a nurse’s career. According to the PA code the practice of professional nursing is defined as, “Diagnosing and treating human responses to actual or potential health problems through such services as case findings, health teaching, health counseling, provision of care supportive to or restorative of life and well-being, and executing medical regimens as prescribed by a licensed physician or dentist (PA Code 2012).”

It goes on to clarify, “The term does not include acts of medical diagnosis or prescription of medical therapeutic or corrective measures, except as may be authorized by rules and regulations jointly promulgated by the State Board of Medicine and the Board, which rules and regulations will be implemented by the Board (PA code 2012).” The requirements for a nurse in PA to become licensed include graduating from an accredited nursing school in the United States or Canada, passing a state board of nursing test, and having no criminal record. To maintain a nursing license an individual living in PA must not be convicted of a crime, uphold the standards of nursing conduct as defined in the PA code, and fulfill the requirements of continuing education. As stated in the PA code, “Beginning with the license period commencing on July 12, 2010, an applicant for renewal of a professional nursing license shall complete 30 hours of continuing education approved by the Board during the biennial period immediately preceding the application for renewal (PA Code 2012).” Professional Standards

Professional standards and codes in nursing are developed to regulate and prevent unprofessional behavior. “A typical board’s role is to endorse professional standards and ensure that the highest standards are achieved (Huston 2010, p.205).” Also a Professional Code of Ethics has been established by the ANA to define discouraged behaviors of a professional nurse. There are various levels of nurses and each fall under a different set of standards and regulations. Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) include a variety of higher level nurses and have all different regulations according to the state they practice in. “Given that clinical nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and certified registered nurse anesthetists all expand the role of the registered nurse, each one has its own scope of practice (Mirr 2006).” It is important for each nurse to be aware of the standards and legislation in the state they practice in. By setting up standards of care the ANA is trying to improve the quality and safety of health care. The ANA and other nursing associations “have been participants in this work, aimed at improving health care quality and safety through standard setting, research, education, and public reporting (Mason 2012, p. 456).”

One specific way that nursing standards have affected nursing care is identified when looking at quality of care with minimum staffing levels. One study showed that when staffing standards were increased, resident outcomes improved in a long term care facility. “Analyses of the effects on quality show that increased standards were associated with reduced restraint use and deficiencies on average at all types of facilities (Park 2009).” Another specific way the code of ethics has affected nursing care is identified when looking at nursing education. According to one study conducted, “Nurses should be allowed to gain experience and develop nursing competence to maximal proficiency in both clinical practice and moral decision-making, respecting simultaneously the recognized ethical codes (Esterhuizen 2006).” More emphasis should be placed on ethics in nursing programs because it is a valuable skill when dealing with specific issues in the nursing field. Summary

It is no surprise that laws and regulations dictate each person’s lives. When it comes to the nursing profession, nursing standards and codes regulate the way each nurse practices in the United States today. This paper has identified the Scope of Practice for an RN in Pennsylvania, explained the importance of nursing standards and codes, and how those standards have influenced nursing practice. We have come a long way in nursing but there is room for many advances in the future.


Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Code. (2012). Registered Nurse. Retrieved November 17, 2012, from http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/049/chapter21/s21.131.html Esterhuizen, P. (2006). Is the professional code still the cornerstone of clinical nursing practice?. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 53(1), 104-110. Huston, C. J. (2010). Professional Issues in Nursing: Challenges and Opportunities. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. Mason, D. J., Leavitt, J. K., & Chaffee, M. W. (2012). Policy & Politics in Nursing and Health Care. (6th ed., p. 451). St. Louis, Missouri: W B Saunders Co. Mirr Jansen, M. P. (2006). Professional issues: Licensure, certification, prescriptive priviliges, credentialing, and legal issues. In M. P. Mirr Jansen & M. Zwygart-Stauffacher (Eds.), Advanced practice nursing (3rd ed., 107–120). New York: Springer. Park, J., & Stearns, S. C. (2009). Effects of State Minimum Staffing Standards on Nursing Home Staffing and Quality of Care. Health Services Research, 44(1), 56-78.

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