The importance of ethics in nursing is difficult to ignore. Through the nursing code of ethics, nurses can consider patient needs from multiple viewpoints and ensure a safe treatment environment.

Like it or not, nurses perform numerous critical and health-related tasks daily. In some cases, the decisions they make can be a matter of life and death.

By following ethical guidelines, nurses can treat everyone equally and individually while safeguarding patients’ privacy rights in a manner that may not seem overtly obvious.

Education and guides such as the Nursing Code of Ethics empower nurses to navigate the murky waters where the most appropriate thing to do is sometimes unclear.

Nursing is a fast-paced industry with new challenges arising every day. So, it is no surprise that nurse managers across the nation all deal with similar ethical issues.

Protecting patients’ rights, having enough staff, making informed decisions and providing high-quality patient care are at the heart of many of these circumstances.

Unfortunately, given the increased number of fresh nurses joining the field, several need more experience to handle ethical dilemmas in nursing.

Patient care could suffer, clinical relationships could become strained and nurses themselves could experience moral discomfort if they do not effectively address ethical issues.

Nursing leaders are under the most pressure when it comes to ethical dilemmas since they are the ones that nurses go to for guidance and direction during these challenging moments.

Hospital officials must ensure that all highly moral decisions are made in their patient’s best interests while also honoring their preferences.

Among the situations that ethics have proven essential include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Acquire informed consent

Nurses must get the patient’s agreement before performing any treatment or procedure unless the patient is unconscious. Sometimes a patient will decline medical care. Nurses need to make sure that staff comply with the patient’s requests.

  • Ensure patient confidentiality

Nursing professionals must decide who needs to be informed about the patient’s history or current state without breaching confidentiality.

  • Tell the truth

The majority of patients put their faith in nurses. Nurses must be honest even when delivering news that the patient may not want to hear. Nurses also rely on patients to provide accurate information about their diseases, medications and other concerns.

  • Address beliefs that are against empirical knowledge

Patients and family members have the right to reject successful conventional care. For instance, blood transfusions are prohibited by some religions. Should the nurse go through the advantages of the suggested course of action? Alternatively, should the nurse honor the patient’s choice?

With these ethical guidelines, nurses can work through challenging situations while performing their duties fairly. These guidelines ensure sufficient levels of care and attention and provide a moral compass upon which to base decisions.

Now that the importance of nursing ethics has been established, you might be wondering what the ethical considerations in nursing are. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the most important ethical considerations in nursing.


Accountability is essential in nursing. After all, the lack of it could substantially damage an organization’s quality of care and reputation, which could increase the threat of lawsuits.

If that’s not bad enough, a lack of accountability can put patients’ lives at risk. An ABC report revealed that as many as 200,000 patients die annually due to medical mistakes.

As a nurse, it is your responsibility to establish a culture of accountability. Here are several reasons why being accountable is among the critical considerations in nursing:

  • Accountability helps nurses develop closer bonds with their patients by fostering a climate of trust and lowering anxiety.
  • Responsible nurses exhibit better work performance, which is advantageous to patients, colleagues, employers and the profession.
  • Highly accountable nurses are much more likely to be successful in their positions. If you take full responsibility for your choices as a nurse, good or bad, your prospective employers and colleagues will value you and your work, boosting your chances of success.

How can a nurse apply accountability in practice? While there are hard and fast rules, staying within your designated scope is the most appropriate approach to exhibit accountability.

The care and services a licensed health practitioner is qualified and permitted to provide are outlined in their scope of practice.

The legislature of each state adopts a “Nurse Practice Act”. The nursing practice act’s rules and regulations are then developed and put into effect by regulatory organizations to safeguard the public and nurses.


Autonomy is another one of the most important ethical considerations in nursing, especially when providing childcare. It speaks to a nurse’s capacity to act using their knowledge and discretion while rendering nursing care within the bounds of their practice.

Nurses can improve their decision-making and critical thinking skills through autonomy while ensuring job satisfaction.

Like it or not, autonomy has a frequent and direct impact on a nurse’s perspective of their role. A lack of autonomy can profoundly impact how nurses react to others and how they believe their employers view them.

The rate of burnout is significantly higher for nurses with lower levels of autonomy than it is for nurses with higher levels, this may be due to the nurses’ decision not to utilize their autonomy or because of workplace limits.

Additionally, the lack of autonomy in nursing frequently causes nurses to feel as though their expertise and talents are not valued.

As a result, patients may receive care that is not personalized and that is less likely to result in long-lasting nurse-patient bonds. So, how do nurses implement autonomy in the workplace?

Several examples of how nurse leaders exercise autonomy include:

  • Working with employees to create healthcare plans.
  • Delegating tasks to staff nurses.
  • Carrying out safety procedures in compliance with the principles.
  • Managing disagreements among their staff.

Individual nursing knowledge and experiences are contributed by nurses who show autonomy, strengthening the profession and improving patient outcomes.


At a single glance, beneficence is a concept that sounds intimidating. However, it is not. The American Nurses Association characterizes it as “actions guided by compassion”.

Like the previous two principles, beneficence is another core ethical principle in nursing. It guarantees that the nurse is aware of the unique circumstances of each patient, realizing that what is beneficial or appropriate for one patient might not be the best choice for another.

Additionally, the beneficence principle mandates that nurses provide their patients with the finest nursing care possible, which improves patient outcomes.

This is especially important because the beneficence principle’s foundation is advancing others’ benefit. When nurses lack beneficence, this can result in profound consequences, such as:

  • Increased risk to patient safety

Safety hazards are more likely if nurses don’t advocate for the patient’s best interests. Medication mistakes, utilizing the wrong equipment or failing to record essential details on the charts are all safety occurrences.

  • Substandard patient relationships

Patients want nurses taking care of them to have their best interests in mind. More often than not, patients can tell if they do from the way the nurses treat them. The nurse-patient relationship may be strained when nurses do not act beneficently in their daily work. Sadly, an absence of patient compliance and the possibility of negative health outcomes are two adverse side effects of harmful nurse-patient interactions.

Conversely, nurses practicing beneficence promote initiatives to enhance not just patient care but also help to ensure safe working conditions.

Nurses usually enjoy their work more when they feel protected and supported. This ultimately boosts productivity, employee satisfaction and retention rates.


Justice in nursing ethics means patients have the right to equitable and fair treatment. In other words, regardless of their insurance status or financial resources, they have the right to fairness in healthcare decisions.

The ethical nursing principle of justice aims to establish and uphold equity, responsibility and equality in nursing by following moral laws, precepts and norms. Nurses must comprehend how justice affects nurse-patient and interprofessional relationships.

When nurses promote justice in healthcare situations, patients feel valued and are often more compliant with care, which improves health outcomes.

Justice also represents the degree of fairness and objectivity leaders express, which affects how nurses and other healthcare team members feel regarding their professions and workplace.

However, understanding justice in nursing ethics is only half the battle. You also need to know how to apply it and understand the consequences which may arise from a lack of justice. The following are some scenarios that may occur if nurses do not exercise justice:

  • Failure to prioritize care

Nursing professionals must use analytical reasoning and judgment when practicing justice in clinical settings. Patients needing immediate attention might wait a long time if those talents aren’t used to carry out justice. Delays in care can occasionally severely affect the nurse and the patient.

  • Increased risk of patients feeling rejected

Without justice, nurses might lean towards one patient or demographic over another. Some patients may feel rejected or even outright abandoned if this happens. Depending on the circumstances, failure to implement justice could lead to nurses being reprimanded or suspended indefinitely for not demonstrating ethical principles.

By promoting justice in healthcare situations, nurses can become better leaders and develop innovative ways to care for diverse patient populations.


Reliable, efficient and high-quality patient care depends heavily on nonmaleficence in nursing.

Nurses can ensure that every effort is taken to protect patient safety and enhance patient outcomes by deliberately practicing nonmaleficence.

In short, nonmaleficence in nursing demands that nurses choose interventions that have the potential to be advantageous without inducing harm.

Nonmaleficence in nursing includes withholding a medicine unless a patient’s symptoms are verified, halting a prescription that is producing an inadequate response or discontinuing a care plan that appears to be doing more harm than good.

For instance, a nurse might discover that a patient’s expression of independence in rejecting a life-saving drug conflicts with the principle of not causing harm.

Additionally, nurses’ sense of autonomy, fairness and compassion have been tested by the continuous challenges of providing patient care throughout COVID-19.

However, a recent poll of 4,000 people, 1,000 of whom were nurses, found that “the situation has led to some improvement inside the profession, quickening shifts in beliefs and expectations regarding nurses”.

On the flip side, the lack of nonmaleficence in the nursing profession can have devastating effects on patients, their friends and families, clinicians and the field as a whole. These effects can also include:

  • Enhanced patient safety risk

Preventing harm is the foundation of nonmaleficence. Medication mistakes and other safety issues are more likely to occur when nurses don’t act without malfeasance.

  • Job or license loss

Nurses should take extra care to work without malice in all clinical settings. If this isn’t done and a patient or employee suffers, the nurse may face serious repercussions, such as losing their employment or nursing license if the harm is severe.

By demonstrating nonmaleficence, nurses can eliminate risks to work environments and deliver excellent care while promoting solid interpersonal relationships based on objectives that serve the greater good of patients and colleagues.


Finally, we have veracity. It is regarded as one of the trickiest nursing guidelines to follow at times. Nurses must be entirely honest with patients to uphold the ideal of honesty. It entails speaking the truth, even if it may upset the patient.

Veracity is a crucial ethical value in nursing, even though putting it into practice might seem burdensome at times, especially when dealing with challenging patient circumstances.

This is because veracity establishes trust between patients and nurses. It aids in tying together and bolstering nurse-patient interactions, which are crucial for creating treatment programs and setting realistic goals.

Honesty in nurses supports patient autonomy as well. Every responsible patient can make choices about their treatment, which is made possible by nurses and patients being honest with one another.

While nurses might want to conceal some facts to comfort patients or their families, it is crucial to refrain from doing so. Lack of truthfulness in nursing might have more negative effects than positive ones, despite the greatest of intentions.

Communication becomes more complex and complicates medical care when nurses are deceitful with family members and patients.

Plus, patients may start to separate themselves and become disobedient if they believe they cannot rely on nurses to be truthful.

It is challenging to explain patient needs and treatment plans when poor nurse-patient interactions and non-compliance result in subpar-quality care.

After all, patients rely on nurses to be open and transparent with them about patient care and other essential facts influencing their health.

How to learn more about these ethical considerations?

Now that you have read through a comprehensive overview of ethical considerations in nursing, you might wonder how to learn more about this.

There are multiple ways you can do so, although one of the most effective is through the online MSN-FNP program at Marymount University. This program incorporates a wide range of topics from the support of illness prevention to patient involvement and healthy lifestyle choices. Online MSN-FNP graduates can provide long-term care plans corresponding to a doctor’s level of care and detect and address health issues while employing good ethics.

This program features multiple courses that help you become a well-educated nurse. Depending on your chosen online academic institution, these courses may include:

Population Health

This course provides:

  • A general understanding of global and national population health
  • Discussion of the factors that influence health
  • Health disparities
  • Population-oriented treatment

Using an epidemiological method, students will investigate the disease burden of ethical, societal, economic, governmental, financial and cultural influences.

Innovative Models of Care and Delivery

By studying and developing cutting-edge care delivery models, this course equips students to exercise clinical, organizational and systems-level leadership.

It focuses on using business process improvement techniques and continuous quality management concepts when developing models.

The training material for participants concentrates on fostering a culture that values practicing excellence, promoting the development of competencies in the corporate and policy spheres and implementing management principles to balance productivity and care quality.

Leadership, Quality and Ethics in Healthcare

This course aims to improve patient care quality and advance nursing by teaching students to evaluate and apply evidence-based leadership skills critically.

The theories of leadership, individual perspective, skill development, quality enhancement, ethical principles, morality and transformation are highlighted.

Primary Care of the Family II

The complex management of the family is the main topic of this course. It evaluates the theoretical underpinnings, development in the context and skill base necessary for providing individuals and families with primary healthcare.

The main area of focus is the use of concepts supported by research that are crucial for the provision of additional treatment.

With an emphasis on the elements of a thorough evaluation, management of diseases and treatment monitoring, as well as the coordination and management of health promotion and health care, the role preparation of the primary care family nurse practitioner is broadened.

Essential experience opportunities for the development and improvement of fundamental family nurse practitioner competencies are provided through the clinical learning environment.

In closing

Ethical values are the foundation of delivering excellent health care and ensuring better patient outcomes.

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