Skip to main content

In the healthcare field, ethics lay the groundwork for navigating difficult, emotionally charged or unforeseen situations. Because nurses face trying situations frequently, it is helpful for them to understand the role of ethics in their profession. Coursework in online RN to BSN programs provides additional insight into ethical standards for nurses.

What Is Nursing Ethics?

Nurses are expected to be honest and act with integrity at all times. Ethical behavior is such a key element of nursing that the American Nurses Association (ANA) has established the Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements. “[The Code] is foundational to nursing theory, practice and praxis in its expression of the values, virtues and obligations that shape, guide and inform nursing as a profession,” says the ANA. The document outlines the ethical standards that nurses should demonstrate. It also provides a model for ethical analysis and decision-making.

What Are the 9 Principles of Nursing Ethics?

The Code includes ethical provisions or principles to which nurses should strictly adhere:

  1. The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and unique attributes of every person.
  2. The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community or population.
  3. The nurse promotes, advocates for and protects the rights, health and safety of the patient.
  4. The nurse has authority, accountability and responsibility for nursing practice, makes decisions and takes action consistent with the obligation to promote health and to provide optimal care.
  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.
  6. The nurse, through individual and collective effort, establishes, maintains and improves the ethical environment of the work setting and conditions of employment that are conducive to safe, quality healthcare.
  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.
  8. The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy and reduce health disparities.
  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.

How Can I Learn More About Nursing Ethics?

While many nurses develop an understanding of ethics and related behavior before starting their careers, it is beneficial for all nurses to participate in ongoing education on this topic.
Ethical dilemmas concerning end-of-life decisions, advanced care planning and informed consent crop up at various times throughout a patient’s lifespan — and a nurse’s career. Online RN to BSN programs offer courses covering nursing ethics, which discuss how ethical nursing behavior should be applied across numerous settings. At Mississippi College, the ethics course provides an overview of the current moral issues and trends impacting healthcare. The coursework is based on a Christian perspective and introduces the potential conflicts between a nurse’s beliefs and values and the expectations and experiences of the profession.

This unique perspective on ethics can help nurses develop a deeper level of spiritual intelligence to navigate difficult situations. A study published in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology found that greater spiritual development correlates with nurses’ ethical decision-making.

A Moral Compass

Showing sound judgement and as acting with integrity and honesty are the keys to ethical behavior. Given the predicaments nurses face each day, it is crucial that they develop a strong moral compass to achieve long-term nursing success.

Learn more about the MC online RN to BSN program.


Journal of Humanistic Psychology: Relationship Between Spiritual Intelligence and Ethical Decision Making in Iranian Nurses

American Nurses Association: Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: The Nursing Code of Ethics: Its Value, Its History

Related Articles


200 S. Capitol Street, Clinton, MS 39056