The training of nurses and other health care providers is aimed at making them aware of the legal and professional framework within which their practice should be based. This paper presents four case scenarios which illustrate various aspects of legal and professional conduct of nurses and health care providers as pertains to the use of medications, research and care of patients. The case scenarios are analysed in line with the legal provisions that are stipulated by the Australian Department of Health and regulators in Victoria. The analysis of the case scenarios includes a reflection of the ethical and professional issues that are being presented and what should have been done to avoid various forms of misconduct on the part of health care providers.
Case scenario 1 presents a situation where Nurse M has violated the law that prohibits the use of controlled medications without a prescription. According to the Department of Health, Victoria (2012), drugs that are controlled must be used only with a prescription from a physician or a doctor. This means that Nurse M has violated the legal framework as provided by the Department of Health. The law requires that the nurse is reported to the relevant authorities in accordance to the legal procedures that are ascribed by the department. This is to be backed by convincing pieces of evidence which would be used to determine the legal provisions in nursing care that have been violated by the nurse. In health care education, nurses and other health care practitioners are presented with relevant information and data in addition to guidelines within which they should base their professional practice (DeWolf, Bosek & Savage, 2007). These guidelines include the use of medication and ensuring that the safety of patient is safeguarded. In this regard therefore it is argued that Nurse M disregarded the provisions of nursing training as demonstrated by the non-professional conduct in the use of medicine. In this case, Nurse M has also violated the standards of professional practice by taking controlled medication without permission. This is provided by the legal framework which protects medication within the hospital environment from theft and possible misuse or abuse of such drugs (Forrester & Griffiths, 2010). In this sense therefore, Nurse M has violated more than one count of the legal provisions in professional practice. Therefore both professional and legal considerations have to be put in mind in deciding upon the course of action against the nurse. Nurse M is obliged to take professional responsibility for her actions. According to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (2012), nurses are obliged to conduct and practice nursing with professionalism and adherence to the laws which govern the practice and profession of nursing. The actions that Nurse M engages in are compromising to the care of patients. This is against the Code of Professional Conduct for Nurses in Australia. The code of conduct mandates nurses to practice in line with the standards of professionalism as defined within the broader health system (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, 2012). Since Nurse M denies her misconduct, taking action against her is a challenge which requires that evidence must be produced so that any form of doubt is removed before her actions can be measured in line with the provisions of the law. This case reflects a dilemma within the nursing profession where nurses are faced with hard decisions of responsibility. This is demonstrated by the fact that Nurse M is a single mother who is in need for her job.