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International codes of ethics have come into effect for Australian nurses and midwives.

Leading Australian nursing and midwifery organisations collectively adopted the International Council of Nurses’ (ICN) Code of Ethics for Nurses and the International Confederation of Midwives’ (ICM) Code of Ethics for Midwives last month as their guiding documents on ethical decision making across the professions moving forward.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA), Australian College of Midwives (ACM) and Australian College of Nursing (ACN) jointly agreed to adopt the codes after a steering group established to review the NMBA’s longstanding codes of ethics for nurses and midwives concluded the ICN and ICM documents provided high-level, contemporary leadership on ethical practice and should be accepted.

The ICN’s Code of Ethics for Nurses states elements that define standards of ethical conduct include nurses demonstrating compassion and integrity and advocating for access to healthcare, nurses maintaining standards of personal conduct that uphold the profession’s values, nurses implementing proper standards of clinical practice, and nurses fostering collaborative and respectful relationships with colleagues.

To be effective as an action-based tool, the ICN document says nurses must study and reflect on the code’s standards and apply them to everyday nursing and healthcare amid a changing society.

In a similar vein, the ICM’s International Code of Ethics for Midwives aims to improve the standard of care provided to women, babies and families across the globe through guidelines for midwives on education, practice and research.

The code encourages midwives to support the rights of women and families to actively take part in decisions about their care, engage with policy and funding agencies to define women’s needs for health services, provide culturally respectful care, and ensure the advancement of midwifery knowledge is based on activities that protect the rights of women as persons.

“These mandates include how midwives relate to others, how they practise midwifery, how they uphold professional responsibilities and duties, and how they work to assure the integrity of the profession of midwifery,” the code states.

ANMF Federal Vice President Lori-Anne Sharp said the codes of ethics were a welcome advancement.

“Globally recognised standards of ethical conduct is highly relevant and will add strength and guidance to nurses and midwives in all aspects of their work.

“I encourage nurses and midwives to study the codes of ethics and am confident they will prove helpful in providing guidance when facing ethical dilemmas and standards of conduct.”

The new codes of ethics are available online at the Professional Standards section of the NMBA’s website.