Trust is an essential part of providing patient care, but it must be earned. Nurses see patients in their most vulnerable moments. By being compassionate, nurses can earn their patients’ trust. The Gallup honesty and ethics polls, which identified nursing as the most trusted profession for the 16th consecutive year, showed the continued confidence the general public has in nursing.

Because of their regular interaction with patients in a variety of settings, nurses usually spend more time with the patient than other healthcare professionals. Ethical nurses work to maintain patient trust, provide quality care, and develop meaningful patient relationships, all of which can have a positive effect on health outcomes.

The Nursing Code of Ethics

Nurses are held to a higher standard of behavior than other professionals. Nurses face ethical dilemmas at the bedside, in their organization, as well as while educating and researching. The Nursing Code of Ethics directs nurses on helping others in need, keeping confidences, and acting in a nonjudgmental manner. The code helps guide nurses to make the right decision in difficult situations.

With their professional commitment to providing safe, compassionate care, ethical nurses understand that patients are more than the sum of their charts — and they respect patient privacy with regard to reporting progress. Advanced skills and education received by completing a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program can further assist nurses in working through moral dilemmas and decisions while administering care.

Why Are Ethics Important?

Ethical nurses provide quality care to all patients regardless of economic status, religion, race, or ethnicity. They act with compassion and respect for the patient while preserving the patient’s dignity. A nurse may not agree with the beliefs of their patient, and may struggle with conflicting personal values. Despite these challenges, a nurse is responsible for providing care in the best interest of the client.

Working in a fast-paced environment calls nurses to make quick decisions, which may impose a moral quandary between what feels like the right thing to do, and what follows medical or ethical code. The overall benefits of treatment may need to be balanced against patient suffering. Patients count on nurses to be genuine while acting ethically, and expect recommendations and decisions to reflect not only a nurse’s personal and professional beliefs, but also patient preferences.

Some nurses fear judgment when discussing ethical dilemmas, so they remain silent. However, healthcare facilities that foster a more ethical environment enjoy greater staff longevity and reduced burnout for nurses. Better collaboration and more balanced moral values creates a culture where people feel comfortable speaking up, allowing them to honor the obligation to their profession to act as a patient advocate.

Honoring Ethics in Daily Decisions

Deciding the right thing to do in a given situation, and what makes it so, can be especially difficult for a nurse when patient satisfaction is at risk. Nonetheless, a nurse is obligated to ensure the patient is fully informed, even if the ethical choice does not align with what the patient wants.

Common ethics-related problems nurses encounter include:

  • Workplace bullying and violence.
  • Patient safety and staffing issues.
  • Competing obligations that could affect the nurse’s ability to provide optimal care.
  • Challenges to maintaining privacy, given the increased use of social media.
  • Overwhelming role expectations.
  • Breaches of confidentiality.
  • The opposing pull of treatment options and patient preference.

A Noble Profession

You may recall a moment when a compassionate nurse touched your life or the life of a loved one. The public continues to place its trust in nurses for compassionate, honest, and ethical care, and nurses who are committed to their profession are honored to provide it.

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


Gallup: Nurses Keep Healthy Lead as the Most Honest, Ethical Profession

American Nurses Association: The Nursing Code of Ethics: Its Value, Its History

Johns Hopkins Magazine: Nursing Is Hard. Unaddressed Ethical Issues Make It Even Harder.

CNE Series: The Value of Trust to Nursing