Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!
So the question is can nurses in Australia receive gifts from patients or relatives without fear of someone tapping them on the shoulder and getting all upset about it?
The short answer is sort of, but it has to be a token gesture not worth much and it can’t influence the way you practice.
In other words, you can’t be bribed with a 50 year old bottle of scotch in order to give someone preferential care in hospital, and if you look after Richard Branson then you’re not allowed to accept his generous gift of a new Aston Martin.
Why? What’s the problem with receiving gifts?
It all comes down to Australian guidelines for professional conduct and what is expected of nurses who work in a position of trust. In other words, there are set codes of ethics which nurses must abide to in order to maintain their registration in Australia.
Guidelines from the NMBA state “Nurses recognise that involvement in financial transactions (other than in a contract for the provision of services) and the receipt of anything other than ‘token gifts’ within professional relationships with persons in their care is likely to compromise the professional relationship.”
They suggest that gifts such as chocolates or flowers are generally acceptable, and individual organisational policy should decide the value at which items need to be officially declared.
The process of declaring gifts received is supposed to prompt nurses to consider the issue of gifts and professional conduct and acts as a stimulus to discussion around what is appropriate and what is not.
Code of Professional Conduct Statement
“Nurses do not allow the offer of any gift or benefits to change the way they work or make decisions, working on the general presumption that they do not accept any gifts or benefits. Recognising the reality of people wishing to demonstrate their appreciation for care by providing an acknowledgement in the form of a gift or benefit, the following guidelines apply:
• Nurses may accept token or inexpensive gifts offered as a gesture of appreciation, and not to secure favour. They do not accept gifts that are more than a token; nor do they accept gifts of cash, other than a negotiated fee for service when in private practice.
• Nurses in employment report the acceptance of the gift to their supervisors and seek their agreement to retain the gift.
• Nurses take all reasonable steps to ensure that neither they nor their immediate family members accept gifts or benefits an impartial observer could view as a means of securing the nurse’s influence or favour.
• Further specific guidance may be obtained from the Codes of Conduct of the relevant government agencies in the jurisdiction responsible for the conduct of health services and employees of health services, ethical and fair trading, anti-corruption; as well as private health service providers; and professional associations.
A Nurses Guide to Professional Boundaries