Importance of Ethics in Nursing

Nurses work in a fast-paced, technical environment. They must make quick decisions about patient care and effectively communicate with other healthcare personnel. RNs with associate degrees can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at many colleges and universities in an online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. After graduation, professional development is an important component of a successful nursing career.

Patients depend on a nurse’s honesty and adherence to ethical standards of ethics. A nurse should develop trust with patients while exhibiting compassion and empathy. Whether nurses earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing through a traditional program or through an online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, they learn the importance of ethics in nursing.

Principles of the Nursing Profession

Ethics are fundamental to nursing. All nurses should respect their patients, maintain patients’ dignity and protect patients’ rights. Nurses must create an environment of mutual trust and respect between patients and healthcare professionals. Patients’ entrust their dignity to nurses, so nurses must guard their privacy, listen to their concerns and consider their wishes concerning the care they want to receive.

The Role of Ethics in Nursing

Nurses work alone and with other healthcare professionals. This collaboration between nurses, colleagues and physicians is important to the safety and quality of patient care. Nurses perform duties based on physicians’ instructions and use their own judgment as necessary. Ethics in nursing includes fair and equable treatment of all patients regardless of the following:

  • Economic status.
  • Age.
  • Ethnicity.
  • Citizenship.
  • Disability.
  • Sexual orientation.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) defines nursing as follows:

Nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well in all settings. Nursing includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled, and dying people. Advocacy, promotion of a safe environment, research, participating in shaping health policy and in patient and health systems management, and education are also key nursing roles. (ICN, 2002)

The Ethical Responsibilities of Nurses

Nurses must maintain professional competency by continuing their education and participating in professional development. The ethical responsibilities of nurses include promoting health, preventing disease and alleviating suffering.

According to the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Imperative Statements (The Code), nurses are responsible for the care not only of patients but also their families and associated groups. The Code emphasizes that sometimes the patient is more than an individual. Thus, nurses need to inform families, business associates or communities about a patient’s treatment and progress when it is appropriate under patient privacy laws.

Morality and Ethics in Nursing

Nurses have a responsibility to report any immoral professional behavior. They should notify staff leaders about healthcare professionals who engage in illegal activities, demonstrate incompetence or work while impaired. In addition, nurses must intervene when they come in contact with a patient who is a victim of child, elder, sexual or domestic abuse. They must also report cases of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

Balancing Nursing Ethics with Job Performance

Ethical nursing constitutes a framework for optimal patient care. With ethics at the forefront, nurses must balance the needs of their patients and the requirements of the healthcare systems that employ them. The American Nurses Association (ANA) recommends that nurses see to the following:

  • Support and honor the rights of patients.
  • Advocate for ethical nursing.
  • Serve on ethics committees.
  • Refuse to compromise ethics.
  • Educate students about ethics.

Patient Rights

A nurse’s priority is to focus on the care and rights of their patients and put aside any prejudices concerning a patient’s situation or demeanor. For example, a nurse must treat an incarcerated or hostile patient the same as a law-abiding and amicable patient.

Patients have the right to make decisions about their healthcare. They can decide to accept or refuse treatment. Patients should expect to receive accurate and complete information about their conditions. Nurses must help their patients understand this information to determine their best options.

The Most Honest and Ethical Profession

In the 2015 Gallup Poll, for the 14th year in a row, nursing was rated the most honest and ethical profession. Out of twenty-one occupations, nursing ranked the highest at 85 percent. The ranking was based on telephone interviews with 824 American adults. Nursing has consistently placed at the top of list since 1999 when the profession joined the poll.

Ethics in Nursing Education

Online RN to BSN programs offer courses in nursing ethics that cover the legal and ethical issues that affect patient care and the nursing profession. Some of the coursework explores the influence of economic and sociopolitical agendas pertaining to healthcare laws and providers. These classes may also cover how nurses should administer care while facing moral dilemmas.

Nurses can never infringe on a patient’s human rights. Nurses must also set boundaries with patients to remain professional. They must be sensitive to a patient’s cultural and religious beliefs, values, language, lifestyle and literacy level while caring for them. Patients trust nurses to resolve conflicts, keep them safe and concentrate on their needs, all while telling the truth and upholding ethics in nursing.

Learn more about the LSUA online RN to BSN program.


Retrieved from Badzek, L., RN, MS, JD, LLM. (2006, October). Nursing’s Ethical Commitment to effective patient communication. American Nurse Today

Retrieved from Ghebrehiwet, T., RN, PhD. (n.d.). Helping Nurses Make Ethical Decisions. Reflections on Nursing Leadership

Retrieved from Lachman, V. D. (2009). Practical Use of the Nursing Code of Ethics: Part 1. The National Center for Biotechnology Information

Retrieved from Parker, F. (2007, November 26). Ethics the Power of One. American Nurses Association

Retrieved from Saad, L. (2016, January 1). 2015 Gallup Poll: Nursing Tops Job Rankings For Honesty, Ethics 14th Year in a Row. American Society of Registered Nurses

Retrieved from The Nurse’s Role in Ethics and Human Right: Protecting and Promoting Individual Worth, Dignity, and Human Rights in Practice Settings. (n.d.). American Nurses Association

Retrieved from The Nurse’s Role on Ethics Committees and as an Ethics Consultant. (n.d.). from The National Center for Biotechnology Information

Retrieved from International Council of Nurses. (2002). International Council of Nurses

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