The code of ethics is high on the list of topics that nurses deal with often. Ethical dilemmas in the healthcare setting can spark heated debates among staff, patients and patients’ families. Hospitals have ethical care committees that evaluate certain situations to arrive at appropriate solutions. Nurses must know the importance of the ethical code set by the American Nurses Association.

Why Do Nurses Need a Code of Ethics?

For those entering the nursing profession, the Code of Ethics serves as a guide. It acts as a non-negotiable standard of ethics for nurses. It also acts as a reminder of nurses’ commitment to society. The code requires nurses to continue with their learning and evidence-based practice. If societal values and morals change, the code of ethics also may change.

What Is a Provision?

The provisions within the Code of Ethics are based on fundamental values of the nurse, the boundaries of duty and loyalty, and duties beyond patient encounters. The provisions are long to read but important to understand. A summary of the provisions will give you an overall picture of the role of a registered nurse.

Provision 1 Summary

The first provision of the Code of Ethics is focused on practicing with compassion and recognition of the dignity, worth and qualities of every person.

Provision 2 Summary

Provision 2 focuses on keeping the patient at the center of care. The nurse should advocate for the betterment of the patient while keeping appropriate boundaries.

Provision 3 Summary

Provision 3 helps protect the health, rights and safety of the patient. Some examples include HIPAA laws, Privacy Acts and keeping confidentiality. Research confidentiality for the patient is also expressed in Provision 3. It is the duty of the nurse to keep patients safe from questionable practice or impaired practice by other members of the healthcare team.

Provision 4 Summary

Provision 4 helps with accepting responsibility and accountability of the patient based on nursing practice and delegation. Delegating the right responsibilities to the right personnel is the responsibility of the nurse.

Provision 5 Summary

Provision 5 offers guidelines on compliance and continuing education for the nurse. Nurses keep their commitment to lifelong learning through continuing education hours set forth by their state nursing board.

Provision 6 Summary

Provision 6 helps nurses improve the healthcare environment by becoming influencers. Influencing the public includes displaying professionalism both in and outside the workplace.

Provision 7 Summary

Provision 7 helps nurses engage and stay involved in healthcare policy. This includes precepting new nurses and becoming leaders. Being part of a committee and supporting the next generation of nurses are other ways to stay involved.

Provision 8 Summary

Provision 8 supports the health needs of the community nationally and internationally. This includes needs both within and outside the community.

Provision 9 Summary

Provision 9 requires the profession of nursing to spell out nursing values, uphold the integrity of nursing and incorporate the tenets of social justice into nursing and health policy. Professional organizations serve to implement this provision.

Ethical Conflicts in Nursing

Ethical conflicts in the nursing world are not uncommon. According to The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, an ethical conflict occurs when a person, group or society is uncertain about what to do when faced with competing moral choices.

Ethical conflicts arise in a variety of medical settings.

For example:

  • End-of-life care — Patients at the end of life have wishes for their care. Nurses must abide by patients’ wishes and provide care without doing harm.
  • Labor and delivery — An ethical dilemma arises on the topic of induction of labor. Patients can schedule their delivery for any date past the 39-week mark.
  • Neonatal — An ethical dilemma that arises in the NICU is the ability to resuscitate micro premature babies. The question is, “Even if saving the baby is possible, should we as healthcare providers do so?” Saving the baby could result in a total-care child.

These are some examples of ethical situations that hospital committees find themselves in; they must consider both the risks and benefits. If you have an ethical issue, it is smart to talk about it with your unit manager and ethics committee. Being part of the ethical committee can make you a better nurse and help you comply with the Code of Ethics for Nurses.

Learn more about the Eastern Michigan University online RN to BSN program.


American Nurses Association: Code of Ethics for Nurses

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Ethics: Nursing Around the World: Cultural Values and Ethical Conflicts

Healthcare: Ethical Issues Surrounding End-of-Life Care: A Narrative Review

Online Journal of Health Ethics: Patient Requested Induction of Labor – Examining an Ethical Dilemma