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Beginner Nursing Ethics Guide

Nursing ethics are important in ensuring that patients are well taken care of and in helping nurses to make the right decisions when dealing with patients’ information and their colleagues or the health care system in general. It was established by providing ethical guidelines that define how professional nurses should conduct themselves in various situations to meet the highest standard, thus embracing the aspect of professionalism in handling patients.

This paper identifies patient-centered care as one of the core values of nursing ethics. This includes acknowledging and honoring the parameters of the patient’s self-governance and legal freedoms, engaging the patient in the decision-making process, and fighting for his/her cause. Patient confidentiality and privacy are also among the expectations specified for nurses, meaning that any information disclosed by a patient must be kept a secret.

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As integrated into healthcare facilities such as the National Health Service within the United Kingdom, the role of ethical consideration in the practice of nursing is important. Many ethical issues that nurses face include the use of restraints, the provision of food and water to patients in a terminal state, rationing of resources, and disagreement with patient expectations regarding treatment. In such cases, knowledge of nursing ethics assists nursing professionals in making appropriate decisions that respect the principles of ethics.

Principles of Nursing Ethics

The general principles of nursing ethics are four principles that assist nurses in solving various ethical issues and making proper decisions that are supposed to favor the patient. These bills are the pillars of Ethical Practice, and they emphasize the moral imperatives of nurse practitioners in the delivery of care.

  1. Beneficence: This principle helps nurses understand the importance of bearing a great moral responsibility to do good for the patient’s welfare. It involves positive undertakings that are usually in the best interest of the patients, such as delivering competent and compassionate care, assessing and minimizing patients’ suffering, and promoting patients’ welfare. The professional rules and professional identity of nurses aim to improve the health or well-being of the patients, as well as their independence and self-esteem.
  2. Nonmaleficence: Nonmaleficence entails nurses avoiding harm to the patient or causing complications to their health. This principle supports a safe workflow environment free from harm in nursing practice. Nurses need to evaluate the risks and benefits of any intervention that they perform for patients, ensure the safety of the patient, and develop strategies to minimize any possible harm that might result from their actions. Nonmaleficence also means the responsibility of identifying any injury or pain endured by patients as part of care delivery.
  3. Autonomy: Autonomy is the ethical principle of self-governance and personal freedom as well as patient’s freedom in decision-making as regards their healthcare. Patient self-determination is another concept that nurses uphold by involving the patient in any decision-making process, ensuring that the patient is informed, knowledgeable, and understands the options available and the impacts they entail, and acknowledging the rights of the patient to hold certain beliefs and value systems. Patients’ involvement in the physical and mental management of their health status leads to patients’ control of their health decisions instead of doctors’ control.
  4. Justice: Justice entails ensuring that healthcare facilities and other facilities that can help in providing medical care to patients are shared fairly and that everyone deserves to receive quality medical care regardless of their status in society or their financial abilities. Nurses promote social justice through equality when educating people on healthcare rights, protections, and accessibility, or a lack thereof; they advocate for the rights of the oppressed and the voiceless in society, as well as fight for appropriate practices in healthcare delivery. Justice is also the process of promoting fair allocation and using the concepts of patient need and resource optimization so as to gain the maximum benefit for each of the patients.

Nursing Ethical Decision-Making Models

Ethical decision-making models are frameworks that can be used in nursing practice to guide caregivers in finding solutions to ethical problems. These models help nurses assess ethical dilemmas, weigh the pertinent ethical considerations and principles, and decide on the proper approaches to take. Several ethical decision-making models are widely practiced in nursing, each with its steps and processes.

Beginner Nursing Ethics Guide -

The Four-Step Ethical Decision Making Model

  1. Identify the ethical dilemma: The process starts with identifying and formulating a moral dilemma or concern that a nurse experiences in their practice.
  2. Gather relevant information: Nurses gather pertinent data and information that can help resolve the ethical conflict, such as the patient’s preference, clinical history, and legal implications.
  3. Explore ethical principles and values: Nurses employ beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice, among other ethical values, in their decision-making processes.
  4. Make a decision: After evaluating the ethical issue, and with regard to the principles and ethical values, the ethical decision or the plan of action is made for the ethical reason and in the best interest of the patient.

The ideas of the ANA Ethical Decision-Making Model

Assessment: Analysis involves the identification of the type of ethical problem, factual information, people involved, and possible implications of the choice of option.

Identification of ethical problems: Nurses determine which ethical dilemmas exist in a particular situation and state the values that are violated or on which side the conflict is based.

Consideration of alternatives: The nurses analyze the various options and choices for addressing the ethical dilemma in terms of the gains and losses of each strategy.

Resolution: A nurse decides on or formulates a course of action that is ethical, appropriate, lawful, and in the best interest of the patient.

The 7-Step Ethical Decision-Making Model

  1. Identify the problem: The ethical issue or problem Nurses are required to search for and highlight in practice.
  2. Gather information: Nurses find and appraise systematically identified preferences, research, knowledge, and principles of ethics.
  3. Clarify values: Ethical analysis includes the personal values and beliefs of the nurses, as well as the values and attitudes that prevailed in the case by itself and other participants involved in the situation.
  4. Explore options: Nurses identify the future activities of care as the ethical problem and analyze the potential outcomes and results of each possible plan of action.
  5. Negotiate a plan: This resulted in a coordinated effort with other members of the healthcare team, the patients, and their families to formulate the best interventions.
  6. Take action: The plan of action may be a verbally agreed-upon approach by both the nurse and the patient and the patient’s family. It is put into practice while observing ethically acceptable practices, legalities, and ethical principles. In nursing, survival refers to the ability of the patient or the patient’s family to live a life that fulfills their potential.
  7. Evaluate outcomes: This method allows Nurses to evaluate the effects of their actions and the decision-making process for ethical reasons and to generate ideas on how to enhance the process.

Importance of Nursing Ethics

Nursing ethics are best described as essential guidelines that are key to providing tenacious healthcare to patients. As such, nursing codes of conduct act as a model of ethical behavior that NPs, Nurses, and all public health workers consider whenever offering care to patients and the general public. Maintaining nursing ethics is vital because it guarantees that patients receive humane, dignified, and competent care. 

This empowers patients and gives them a voice, offering care and asserting their freedom and choice. In this way, ethical principles of patients’ treatment create a healthy interaction between patients and doctors and between healthcare professionals and society in general. Further, nursing ethics ensure that patients’ rights are respected and that they have a role in ensuring equality in healthcare, supporting social justice, and working to eliminate healthcare inequalities. 

Last but not least, it remains crucial to emphasize the significance of nursing ethics because the principles guiding nurses’ actions have an unambiguous connection with the efficacy of patient treatment and the overall advancements achieved by the nursing profession toward improving the provision of proper and sufficient healthcare to the population.

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Ethical Leadership in Nursing

Nursing practice strongly relies on ethical leadership when determining organizational laws to execute goals. It defines the attitude within the entire healthcare team, as every healthcare worker knows they have to work with integrity and gain the trust of the public. Ethical leaders in nursing are role models who set the tone and standards for practicing ethics and the process of decision-making with patients, fellow employees, students, and in the hospital or healthcare facility.

First, they focus on the needs of the patients and their concern for human rights and the human dignity of the intimate guardians. Third, ethical leaders actively create organizational cultures and practices that enable ethical discussions and self-reflective thinking processes among nursing staff to ensure that nursing practice adheres to the principles of ethics.

Strategies for Ethical Decision-Making in Leadership Roles

Ethical decision-making is not an exception to practicing leaders in the nursing field because there are always moral challenges present in most nursing specialities. Using various techniques, ethical leaders help people make sound ethical decisions when faced with complicated situations. They normally uphold the need to take an ethical lens view and involve stakeholders in the making of a decision as this will provide another side of the ‘truth’.

They also adopt the principles of the ethic of reciprocity, whereby they display virtues of righteousness, act with honesty, and share all relevant information with the affected parties. Additionally, they allow critical evaluation and pondering of actions and careful consideration of the ethical perspective in the course of their work when the nursing staff is faced with ethical dilemmas. With these tactics, ethical leaders are able to encourage nursing teams to make decisions that embrace ethical values and bring justice to patients and society.

Impact of Ethical Leadership on Nursing Practice

Of great importance is the impact of ethical leadership on nursing practice and overall professionalism. Experience and understanding enable ethical leaders to ensure that nurses feel valued, recognized, and encouraged in their attempts to deliver quality care. Furthermore, they promote organizational ethical cognition and responsibility, which leads to better patient safety, satisfaction, and outcomes.

Ethical leadership also supports the development of professional competence among nurses by emphasizing the updating of knowledge and thinking through ethical dilemmas in regard to nursing. In addition, ethical leadership contributes to promoting the nursing profession to improve its image to the public and increase confidence and trust in the health systems among patients, families, and the public.

Implementing Nursing Ethics in Practice

Applying nursing ethics in practice has many benefits that are realized by patients as well as healthcare providers. Ethical consideration assists nurses in making the right decisions in the ward, on the streets, in the clinics, hospitals, or even within their families and communities with a caring spirit, upholding the noble cause of the nursing profession.

  • Utilize frameworks such as autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice to guide decision-making.
  • Engage in reflective practice to critically assess personal values, biases, and beliefs influencing patient care decisions.
  • Seek ongoing education and training in ethics to enhance ethical reasoning and moral judgment.
  • Foster a supportive environment where nurses feel empowered to address ethical concerns openly.
  • Encourage collaboration and consultation with colleagues, ethics committees, and other resources within the healthcare organization.
  • Promote transparency and open communication regarding ethical concerns and decision-making processes.
  • Champion ethical values and principles through ethical leadership at all levels of the nursing hierarchy.
  • Provide guidance and support to nursing staff facing ethical challenges, ensuring a culture of accountability and ethical practice.

You can also check out our Sample Papers

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Why is nursing ethics important for nursing students?

Nursing ethics is of paramount importance for nursing students as it forms the bedrock of their professional identity and practice. Ethical principles guide nurses in making decisions that uphold the dignity, autonomy, and well-being of their patients. In the complex healthcare environment, where dilemmas often arise, understanding and adhering to ethical standards ensure that nursing care is provided with integrity and compassion. 

Furthermore, nursing ethics instill a sense of responsibility and accountability among students, preparing them to navigate ethical challenges they may encounter throughout their careers. By integrating ethical considerations into their education, nursing students develop the critical thinking skills necessary to assess situations ethically and advocate for the best interests of their patients. Ultimately, nursing ethics fosters trust between nurses and patients, promoting a culture of respect, empathy, and professionalism within the healthcare profession.

What resources are available for further learning on nursing ethics?

One valuable resource is academic textbooks specifically focused on nursing ethics, which provide in-depth discussions of ethical principles, dilemmas, and case studies relevant to nursing practice. Additionally, professional organizations such as the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) offer online courses, webinars, and publications that explore various aspects of nursing ethics. 

Nursing journals also frequently publish articles on ethical issues in healthcare, providing insights into current debates and best practices. Moreover, healthcare institutions often have ethics committees or departments that offer educational resources, workshops, and consultations for nurses seeking guidance on ethical dilemmas in their practice. Lastly, attending conferences or seminars on bioethics and healthcare ethics can broaden nurses’ understanding of ethical theories and their application in real-world scenarios.


Nursing ethics serves as the cornerstone of compassionate and ethical care delivery, guiding healthcare professionals in navigating complex ethical dilemmas with integrity and professionalism. Upholding principles of integrity, trust, and patient advocacy, nursing ethics ensures that patients receive care that is respectful, compassionate, and aligned with their values and preferences. By adhering to ethical principles and codes of conduct, nurses foster trust, promote well-being, and uphold the highest standards of professionalism in healthcare practice.

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