A nurse is working with an unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP) to perform a bed bath on a client. The nurse notes the smell of alcohol on the UAP’s breath. Which is the priority nursing action?

  • Work closely with the UAP during the shift and observe for any signs of impairment.
  • Complete the bed bath without comment. The unit is already short one staff member.
  • Offer chewing gum to the UAP. Since she does not give medications, she can do her job as she does not appear impaired.
  • Call for another nurse to complete the bath and immediately report the UAP to the charge nurse or unit manager.
Number 4 is correct.
The professional nurse works under the framework of six ethical principles. Nonmaleficence emphasizes protecting the client from harm. Client safety is always a priority. Another nurse may step in and complete the bath, ensuring that the client is not left alone with impaired personnel. Options 1, 2, and 3 allow the impaired UAP to remain on duty, possibly causing harm to the client. The nurse also has an ethical and legal duty to report situations that may cause client danger. Failure to do so may result in disciplinary action by the board of nursing for the nurse involved, regardless of whether harm comes to the client.