Tips from TSE: Legal and ethical issues arise in evidence-based staff development

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, May 29, 2009

In evidence-based staff development, educators must gather evidence to support ethical and legal decisions. Possible ethical situations include identifying staff members who are not able to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for safe and effective patient care. If educators identify such staff members, they are ethically obligated to take steps to help them achieve educational objectives.

For example, consider an ethical scenario that also has legal implications. Suppose a close friend fails to achieve a passing score on the didactic portion of advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification. She is an excellent nurse and tells you that she has been under a lot of stress at home. She says she knows that she can pass the test, but needs more time. You, as the educator, agree to keep silent about her test results and make arrangements for her to take the test in a few weeks.

Before she can re-take the test, she fails to adhere to practice according to ACLS standards in the work setting and a patient dies. She is held accountable when it is discovered that she had failed the test. You are also accountable legally and ethically for failure to adhere to educational standards. Thus, the evidence shows that not only were educational objectives not achieved, but you ignored the evidence and facilitated a situation that cost a patient's life.

Editor's note: This excerpt was adapted from the June issue of The Staff Educator. Discover all the benefits of subscribing to The Staff Educator!

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