nursing ethical principles

The Nursing Code of Ethics and What it Means for Prospective Nurses

Ethics are an integral part of healthcare. Nurses, doctors, and anyone working with patients – directly or indirectly – is expected to adhere to certain ethical standards and practices throughout their day-to-day. This ensures that they follow good moral values, and that their work is both honest and honorable. Ethics also ensure that all patients are treated equally by practitioners, with care, respect, and empathy, no matter their background or what brought them there. 

If you are considering a career in nursing, you likely already have a strong moral compass and compassion for those around you. You likely know right from wrong, and want to do what is best for those you’re helping. But in your journey to become a nurse, this is just the beginning.  

Nurses work in life or death situations every day. Any decision they make can impact a patient’s health and well-being. With that in mind, the American Nurses Association (ANA) created a written, universal Code of Ethics for Nurses (The Code). This was developed as a guide for nurses both new and old, to help them understand and comply with a consistent set of ethical obligations as patient care providers. 

What is the Nursing Code of Ethics?
The Code of Ethics for Nurses is a foundational, non-negotiable document for nursing professionals, set forth by the American Nurses Association (ANA). It serves as a guide for nurses in their duty to always analyze situations and make decisions in an ethical manner, and to provide the highest-quality care possible to their patients. This includes: 

  • Acting with compassion and respect towards all patients and populations 
  • Making a primary commitment to their patient, and working in his/her best interest 
  • Being an advocate and protecting the rights and safety of their patients 
  • Providing optimal care for patients in need, and assuming accountability to provide the best care possible 
  • Safeguarding their own health, safety, and integrity as a nurse 
  • Promoting ethics and integrity in the workplace 
  • Committing to continuous learning and growth within the nursing profession 
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to promote justice in healthcare, and reduce disparities within the healthcare system 

As noted above, nursing often involves life and death decisions. And sometimes, nurses cannot help but run into challenges when it comes to decision-making. For example, a nurse may carry a personal bias about a certain case or situation, or have a relationship with a patient that is within their careOr, they may have to deliver a procedure against their own beliefs and religious ideals. When conflicts of interest or personal factors arise, the Nursing Code of Ethics becomes a source-of-truth. 

The goal of the Code is to standardize ethics in nursingIt outlines nine provisions that explicitly detail what nurses are responsible for, and will be held accountable for, in their professional career. It requires them to act in the best interests of their patients, to respect and protect all patients, and to promote positive change, morals, and justice in their workplace and beyond.  

The Nine Provisions in the Nursing Code of Ethics
The following nine provisions were defined by the American Nurses Association to shape, guide, and inform both current and future nurses. These conditions, as you will find, all revolve around moral values – and obliges nurses to always act for the good of their patients, their community, and the greater healthcare system. You can view the full Code of Ethics for Nurses at this link, or find an overview of its provisions below. 

  • Provision 1: Nurses must practice with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person. 
  • Provision 2: The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community, or population.  
  • Provision 3: The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient. 
  • Provision 4: The nurse has the authority, accountability, and responsibility for nursing practice; makes decisions; and takes action consistent with the obligation to promote health and to provide optimal care. 
  • Provision 5: The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence, and continue personal and professional growth. 
  • Provision 6: The nurse, through continual and collective effort, establishes, maintains, and improves the ethical environment of the work setting and conditions of employment that are conducive to safe, quality health care. 
  • Provision 7: The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy. 
  • Provision 8: The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy, and reduce health disparities. 
  • Provision 9: The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional organizations, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and health policy. 

Becoming an Ethical Nurse
As you plan to enter the nursing profession, it is important to understand how ethics, justice, and respect will factor into your role. The Code of Ethics for Nurses is a must on your reading list, either prior to or early in nursing school. These will ensure you are prepared to become a morally-sound and guided nurse, and that your patients will always be at the heart of what you do. 

It is also important to find a nursing school that recognizes these ethical standards, and that upholds similar values in their own curriculum. As detailed in our previous blog, The Core Values Every Nursing School Should Have, a great nursing program will emphasize the following skills in students: 

  • Empathy and compassion 
  • Good communication 
  • Ability to teach 
  • Critical and ethical thinking 
  • Professionalism 
  • Assurance of patient comfort and dignity 

A great nursing program will also encourage you to keep learning, in your education and career. This is also emphasized by the Nursing Code of Ethics, to keep on advancing through research and professional development. The fact is, the field is always changing. New medical treatment are being identified. New practices and technologies are being introduced. Even ethical standards and requirements are being evaluated each year, so it is important to stay up to date. This is all vital to remaining a trusted and competent nursing professional. 

This is the start of an extremely rewarding career, in which you have the unique ability to help people in need. To begin your career in nursing, or to advance your nursing education, please do not hesitate to contact Goodwin University. We offer nursing degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s level. Learn more by visiting us online, or calling 800-889-3282 today.