Bioethics and health informatics are two important topics in nursing. Frequently included in Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) curricula, the subjects prepare nurses to navigate ethically challenging situations as well as safeguard sensitive patient data housed in various health information systems. RNs with a solid understanding of their role in providing compassionate, ethical care will be able to act in their patients’ best interests.

What Is Bioethics?

Bioethics, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a discipline dealing with the ethical implications of biological research and applications especially in medicine.” It comprises the basic principles that govern nurses and is helpful in guiding how to approach and engage patients, especially when difficult decisions about life, death and interventional treatment are being made. Morals are slightly different and represent your personal belief system of what is right and wrong.

What Are the 4 Bioethics Nursing Principles?

There are four main bioethics principles that apply to nurses:

  • Autonomy: Every patient has the right to make decisions that align with their personal values and beliefs. While nurses have their own views on what they feel is the correct course of action, they are obligated to honor the wishes of their patients.
  • Beneficence: RNs must act in the best interests of the patient at all times and seek to improve the patient’s condition wherever possible.
  • Justice: Nurses will be fair and equitable in the distribution of care, ensuring that patients receive the attention and treatment they need.
  • Nonmaleficence: Just as physicians agree to abide by the Hippocratic Oath, nurses follow a code of ethics and pledge to bring no harm to their patients, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Given the often complex dynamics of healthcare, nurses should understand that their moral beliefs will not always align with patients’ wishes. For example, a cancer patient completes two rounds of radiation, but then decides to forgo any further treatment due to the side effects. Although the patient has been offered an alternative therapy that should result in fewer side effects, the patient remains firm in their decision. The nurse may not agree with the choice to halt treatment, but must accept the patient’s autonomy.

What Is Health Informatics and Its Relation to Bioethics?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, health informatics is “the interdisciplinary study of the design, development, adoption, and application of IT-based innovations in healthcare services delivery, management, and planning.”

Electronic medical records (EMRs) and computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems are two common health informatics applications. Despite the widespread usage, bioethics concerns are still prevalent. In order to preserve the nursing principle of autonomy, for instance, patients are frequently given the option to opt in or opt out of the various digital healthcare services like patient portals. Nurses play an integral role in ensuring that accurate patient information is recorded in the EMR as well as safeguarded, employing the principles of beneficence and nonmaleficence.

To prepare nurses for the intersection of technology and ethics, Nevada State College includes a Bioethics and Health Informatics course as part of the online RN to BSN curriculum. It expands on the fundamental code of ethics for nurses and demonstrates how to provide compassionate, respectful care in a technology-driven setting.

Nursing Code of Ethics

Nurses must honor and support patients’ rights and wishes, even when those stand in stark contrast to their personal feelings. With the rise in digitized recordkeeping and electronic systems, there is a greater emphasis on nurses understanding how health informatics applications spawn situations that may compromise core ethical principles. Nurses enrolled in the online RN to BSN program at Nevada State College take an in-depth look at these topics and how they apply in daily nursing practice.

Learn more about Nevada State College’s online RN to BSN program.


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

American Nurses Association: Ethics Topics and Articles

Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity: Bioethics 101 Resources

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society: Health Informatics Defined

Merriam-Webster: Bioethics

Missouri Medicine: Ethical Controversies About Proper Health Informatics Practices

U.S. National Library of Medicine: Nursing Ethical Considerations