Altruism which can also be termed as selflessness is a principle of practice that concerns the welfare of others. This is one of the traditional virtues that were upheld by several cultures, secular views and religious traditions. This is a malleable notion that is understood differently in many disciplines although the common denominator of all the definitions is the ideology of unidirectional helping character.
Within the clinical setting, altruism is a value that nurses as professionals poses. Despite the enormous changes within the society and the ways in which training and education for nurses is delivered, nursing is highly underpinned by the beliefs and values of the profession. The values that have been evaluated as altruistic include care for others, academic performance and self-control. Altruism is the key characteristic that all nurses and the health professionals are expected to have (Puka, 1994).
The definition of altruism biologically is the behavior that individual poses and increases fitness of another person while at the same time decreasing the fitness of the actor (Pallone, 1999). In this particular sense, it is totally different from the philosophical perspective whereby an action is only said to be altruistic if it was done with a conscious intention of helping another person. Within the nursing and health care fraternities, there are no restrictions to an altruistic act which is just but an act of helping an individual who as a problem or caring for others (Puka, 1994).
The nursing and healthcare professionals possess the responsibility of being altruistic. This means that as professionals they have an ethical obligation give others what they need without any form of self-interest (Johnson, Larkin, & Saks, 1995). Most nurses who are altruistic will always make decisions totally that are in the best interest of the concerned patient. By being altruistic the nurses and healthcare professionals are being patient advocate, hence they will be practicing good ethics of nursing. During a moral code situation, the adrenaline of the nurses and healthcare professionals and in a life-saving mode. At this particular point they feel good being a nurse who can save the world as an individual, but when things doesn’t go right this particular feeling is put into a test and one keep asking him or herself questions(Johnson, Larkin, & Saks, 1995).
Many new nurses have very hard time while making decisions concerning life and death. In most cases it takes a lot of maturity to get wisdom, knowledge and certitude. Ethics in the healthcare and nursing profession is what it always drives the process of making decisions whether good or bad. Altruism as one of the most critical code of ethics should always be involved in any other decision that is made (Johnson, Larkin, & Saks, 1995). Nurses are also put in a fix that they have to always respect the cultural beliefs and the values of others. Just because nurses sometimes think they know the right thing to do, does not actually make it totally right. It is altruistic for the nurses and other health care professionals to honor and respect the wishes and beliefs of the patients. It is unfortunate that they decisions that are made by the patients and their families are mainly driven by either grief of total lack of understanding (Puka, 1994).
Altruism as part of ethics practiced by nurses encompasses the interpretation of an individual. It is based totally on the values and morals that individuals possess. Although the Nurse Practice Act have very good guidelines for how individuals should act it does not absolve individuals from making personal decisions concerning the issues at hand.
Pallone, N. J. (1999). Altruism, narcissism, comity: Research perspectives from Current psychology. New Brunswick, N.J: Transaction Publishers.
Johnson, T., Larkin, G., & Saks, M. (1995). Health professions and the state in Europe. London: Rutledge.
Bailey, P. A., Carpenter, D. R., & Harrington, P. A. (1999). Integrating community service into nursing education: A guide to service-learning. New York, NY: Springer Pub. Co.
Puka, B. (1994). Reaching out: Caring, altruism, and prosocial behavior. New York: Garland.