Ethics in Nursing: A Summary

Ethics in nursing are the moral principles that guide the conduct and decision-making of nurses in their practice. Ethics are essential for nurses because they often face complex and challenging situations that involve the well-being and rights of patients, families, colleagues, and society. Ethics in nursing also reflect the values and commitments of the profession, as well as the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern nursing practice.

The nursing code of ethics is a document that provides a framework and guidance for ethical issues in nursing. The nursing code of ethics was first developed by the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1950 and has been revised several times since then to reflect the changes and challenges in health care and nursing. The nursing code of ethics consists of nine provisions and their accompanying interpretive statements, which cover topics such as respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice, accountability, advocacy, collaboration, confidentiality, and quality of care. The nursing code of ethics is intended to serve as a standard of conduct for nurses, a source of inspiration and reflection, and a tool for ethical decision-making. What is the Nursing Code of Ethics?

Ethical principles in nursing are the fundamental values that underlie the nursing code of ethics and ethical decision-making. There are four main ethical principles in nursing, which are:

  • Autonomy: the respect for the self-determination and decision-making of patients and their families.
  • Beneficence: the duty to do good and promote the best interests of patients and their families.
  • Non-maleficence: the duty to do no harm and prevent harm to patients and their families.
  • Justice: the fair and equitable treatment of patients and their families, and the allocation of resources and services.

These ethical principles in nursing are not absolute, and may sometimes conflict with each other or with other values and obligations. Therefore, nurses need to use their professional judgment, knowledge, and experience to balance and prioritize these principles in each situation. Four Core Ethical Principles in Nursing

Facts and Figures Related to Nursing

  • Nursing is the nation’s largest health care profession, with nearly 5.2 million registered nurses (RNs) nationwide. Of all licensed RNs, 89% are employed in nursing. The median age of RNs is 46 years. Nursing Workforce Fact Sheet
  • Nursing is a fast-growing profession. The federal government predicts that more than 203,000 new nursing jobs will be created each year from 2021-2031. That’s 2 million nursing positions! 45 Fun & Interesting Nursing Facts
  • Nursing is a diverse and inclusive profession. Considering racial backgrounds, the breakdown of RN population in 2022 was 80% White/Caucasian; 7.4% Asian; 6.3% Black/African American; 2.5% more than one race; 0.4% Native American or Alaska Native; and 0.4% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. In addition, 6.9% of the RN workforce report their ethnicity as Hispanic. From 2020 to 2022, the percentage of men in nursing increased from 9.4% to 11.2%. Nursing Workforce Fact Sheet
  • Nursing is a versatile and dynamic profession. Nurses work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, schools, homes, military, industry, and research. Nurses also have different roles and specialties, such as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, nurse educators, nurse managers, and nurse researchers. Nurses can also pursue advanced degrees and certifications to enhance their skills and knowledge. Ethics and Human Rights in Nursing
  • Nursing is a rewarding and fulfilling profession. Nurses make a difference in the lives of patients and their families every day, by providing compassionate, competent, and holistic care. Nurses also contribute to the improvement of healthcare quality, safety, and outcomes, by applying evidence-based practice, engaging in advocacy, and participating in innovation. Nurses are respected and trusted by the public and often rank as the most honest and ethical professionals in surveys. 31 Interesting and Fun Nurse Facts