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When the decision is made to become a nurse, there is a code of ethics in place that they agree to abide by (ANA, 2001). The Registered Nurse who demonstrates leadership and ethics places their own personal and religious beliefs aside to do what is truly best for the outcomes of those they serve. As a school nurse, the obligation to keep the students safe and healthy should and often does come first and foremost. Counseling abstinence, though necessary, will not stop teens from having sexual intercourse and it will not teach them to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Those entrusted with the health and welfare of our young people must teach them how to utilize condoms to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies and contacting sexually transmitted diseases, (STDs). It is well known that Catholics do not use birth control in any way shape or form; this includes the use of condoms. STD’s and unplanned pregnancies are viewed as consequences to one’s sins. When the school nurse is also a devout Catholic, issues surrounding teens, sex, and birth control can cause moral distress and make the nurse question the actions they have taken. It was learned in week 4 that “Actions are only ethical if motivated by a duty to do the right thing” (CCN, 2013). What IS the right thing to do?
Teens, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, & Abstinence
There are nineteen million new cases of bacterial and viral cases of sexually transmitted diseases diagnosed in the United States each year and 50% of these cases are diagnosed in adolescent males and females and most case studies focus on abstinence or on the use of condoms (Akers, Gold, Coyne-Beasley, & Corbie-Smith, 2012). “It is estimated that by the end of high school, nearly two thirds of American youth are sexually active, and one in five has had four or more sexual partners” (Starkman & Rajani, 2002 p. 313). Sex education should include the worth and benefits of abstinence but there is little evidence that abstinence only programs work. Teens who participate in these programs may not refrain from sexual intercourse longer or become sexually active sooner than those who participate in programs that promote the use of condoms. There is no evidence that those who do participate in abstinence only programs are less sexually active but there is evidence that those who do participate in all-inclusive program practice safer sex when they do become sexually active (Starkman & Rajani, 2002).
Catholicism & the Use of Condoms
Cardinal Jaime Sin issued a pastoral exhortation in 2001 stating that “the condom corrupts and weakens people, destroys families and individuals, and also spreads promiscuity” (Arie, 2005 p. 926). The Catholic church’s negative stance on condoms in that they murder sperm and promote immoral behavior in spite of the fact that Catholic organizations care for 25% of all those that are afflicted with HIV/AIDS (Arie, 2005), causes great moral distress for Catholic nurses who have an obligation to practice using the Code of Ethics outlined by the ANA. Non-Catholic teenagers are more likely to use and know about condom usage than Catholic teens (Kinsman, Nakiyingi, Kamali, & Whitworth, 2001) even with those who are higher up in the Catholic organization voicing opinions and recognizing that there is power in condoms saving lives, and the Catholic church refuses to endorse their use and educate their members (Arie,2005).
There is over whelming evidence that the use of condoms is beneficial in preventing the transmission of STD’s among adolescents. With over half of all sexually transmitted diseases being reported among young people, it is of upmost importance that those working with teenagers, where it concerns sexuality, be prepared to teach them about the importance of protecting themselves from STD’s by promoting the use of condoms as counseling abstinence will not stop teens from having sexual intercourse. The Catholic Church refuses to promote the use of condoms. Therefore, it is even more important, when looking at the imperial evidence and outcomes from statistics when condoms are used as a preventative measure for STD’s, for the Catholic nurse to put aside her own religious and moral beliefs in favor of teaching the significance of using condoms for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Furthermore, it is of this author’s opinion that no nurse who has protected a young person by preventing pregnancy or an STD, through comprehensive sex education and counseling that teenager to use condoms, should ever feel any moral distress or be persecuted by her congregation for doing the right thing.
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