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10.1 Client Rights and Protections

Maintaining understanding and compliance with the tenets of HIPAA is critical for client safety and trust. Under HIPAA, PHI cannot be used or shared without the client’s written permission. This is one of the client rights provided under federal law. Other client rights offered under federal statute include those in the Affordable Care Act. Its original premise, which continues, is to expand access to health insurance to uninsured Americans. The main points of the law were to expand Medicaid eligibility, create a Health Insurance Marketplace, and prevent insurance companies from denying coverage due to preexisting conditions.

10.2 Legal Issues Relating to Mental Health Nursing

Legal issues in mental health can be complicated and overwhelming. The best way to protect yourself, your license, your clients, your community, and society is to know as much as possible about the laws and regulations that apply to your job. Another way to accomplish this is to surround yourself with others who are knowledgeable by joining professional organizations, keeping up-to-date with your board of nursing, having mentors, and engaging with trusted professionals.

Nurses can come into contact with the legal system in a variety of manners. They can face criminal charges, such as battery, if they touch a client without receiving informed consent. Or they may face civil liability for negligence if, for instance, they make a medication error that leads to damages. Diligence in treating clients is the best way to avoid professional legal or disciplinary action. The legal system also affects nursing when a client is not equipped to make decisions on their own about their treatment and when clients need to be assessed for fitness to make those decisions. Nurses should familiarize themselves not only with pertinent state and federal laws, but also with professional boundaries, hospital policies, and relevant nursing board regulations.

10.3 Ethical Standards in Mental Health Nursing

Ethics in nursing is all about providing caring, quality, and responsible care to clients. This sounds simple but frequently is not. There are many gray areas in ethics, and it is important to provide care that takes into consideration the ethics, values, and morals of the nursing profession, the client, and the nurse. It is the human connection that provides the most healing in nursing, but professional and ethical boundaries are imperative to protecting both nurses and clients.


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