The Importance of Ethics in Nursing


Nurses perform hundreds of critical, health-related tasks every day. In some cases, the decisions they must make test their professional and personal morality. The nursing code of ethics helps caregivers consider patient needs from several viewpoints and maintain a safe recovery environment. Ethical guidelines remind caregivers to treat all people equitably and individually, while protecting the privacy rights of patients in ways that may not seem overtly obvious. These recommendations also call on caregivers to advocate and seek justice for those in their care, and to take full responsibility for their work as nurses.

RNs looking to advance their careers should explore the benefits of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) program.

What Are Ethics in Nursing?

Professional nurses sometimes experience situations in the workplace that challenge their personal and professional ethics. Morally courageous healthcare professionals, however,  find a way to make ethical decisions even if they are alone in their beliefs. Nurses who exercise this ability strive to behave according to the nursing code of ethics, regardless of negative personal outcomes that may arise. These outcomes may include a tainted reputation, personal embarrassment, angst, ostracism by peers, employer or peer backlash, and career ramifications.

Moral practitioners create a safe, non-judgmental caregiving environment. When unforeseen danger occurs, nurses take action to protect patients and themselves. They also express empathy through words and actions, while forming strong connections with their patients. These relationships foster a dialogue that helps healthcare professionals find personalized and effective care solutions.

Nurses need to practice professional humility and flexible thinking. The nursing code of ethics encourages healthcare professionals to incorporate these moral guidelines into their personal lives as well. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), nursing ethics cover several common areas.

  • End-of-life issues
  • Bioethics
  • Advocacy
  • Caregiving
  • Moral courage, moral distress, and moral resilience

Cultural Competency in Nursing

An important area of ethics in nursing is cultural awareness. Nurses are increasingly seeing patients from different cultures, with different languages and different beliefs. Those patients rely on nurses to make culturally appropriate ethical decisions regarding their care. That is, nurses should try to understand how social and cultural differences influence a patient’s healthcare-related beliefs, attitudes, and actions.

The code of ethics can help nurses remember that each patient has a unique background and unique needs. In addition, nurses can improve their cultural competency by communicating openly, withholding judgment, normalizing cultural differences, and examining their own biases.

Having a keen sense of cultural awareness can serve caregivers well, especially when they are faced with dilemmas regarding care for patients from diverse backgrounds. Ultimately, cultural competency helps nurses serve individual and community interests by working toward the best possible health-related outcomes.

Examples of Ethics in Nursing

Key examples of ethics in nursing cover a variety of areas.


Under HIPAA, nurses cannot disclose sensitive information about their patients. In addition, the nursing code of ethics emphasizes the importance of keeping the details of patient cases confidential. This guideline goes beyond making sure that unauthorized persons do not gain access to private records. The code encourages caregivers to discuss cases only when others are not present or are unable to hear their dialogue. This applies especially in the care setting, where nearby staff or patrons may overhear clinical discussions.


Nursing professionals take responsibility for their actions. They are honest and exercise strong moral practices in the workplace. Ethical nurses never attempt to provide services beyond their proficiency and do all they can to keep their patients safe.

Valuing Individual Patients

Caregivers educate themselves about the individuals and communities they serve, and encourage their peers to be equally proactive in following this same standard. Additionally, nurses treat everyone with respect and maintain appropriate professional boundaries at all times.

Wholistic Treatment

Responsible nurses do everything in their power to promote a wholistic care approach, taking into account patients’ physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. They network with other healthcare professionals to meet and apply this goal as universally as possible. They also work to mitigate threats to responsible wholistic care, such as public health initiatives that misalign with community health needs.

Advocating for Patients

Nurses must dedicate themselves as patient advocates, ensuring every patient’s unique needs and preferences are incorporated into their care. The Nursing code of ethics sets forth the principle that people have the right to decide how they want treatment and to be informed about that treatment in a manner that meets their preferences. It is important, however, that patients be mentally fit to make those types of decisions. If they are not, nurses must help them with the decision-making process.

Promoting Equality

The nursing code of ethics promotes fair treatment toward all individuals and denounce discrimination for any reason. This includes making sure they distribute limited healthcare resources based on need. By exercising fair treatment, caregivers create trusting relationships with their clients.

Pursue a Nursing Career

The history of nursing education at AdventHealth University Online stretches back to 1908, providing students with a strong foundation of academic excellence. Today, that education is marked by cutting-edge courses taught by experienced faculty who are dedicated to helping individuals pursue an online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) degree.

If you are passionate about caregiving, and want to exemplify the importance of ethics in nursing in your career, consider earning an online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) degree from AdventHealth University Online.

Recommended Readings

Advocating for Nurses With Disabilities

Leadership Styles in Nursing: Seven Effective Approaches

What Is Humanitarian Nursing?


American Nurses Association, “Ethics and Human Rights”

American Nurses Association, “Ethics Topics and Articles”

American Nurses Association, “Nursing Advocacy”

American Nurses Association, “View the Code of Ethics for Nurses”

BMC Nursing, “Increasing Cultural Awareness: Qualitative Study of Nurses’ Perceptions About Cultural Competence Training”

Quality Interactions, “Cultural Awareness in Healthcare: A Checklist”

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