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Candidate Advice

Nursing Ethics: Things Every Nurse Should Know


Complex ethical situations often face nurses working on the front line. These situations can affect patients, their families and co-workers. Nurses have a responsibility to act in a professional manner and provide the highest level of care possible. Therefore, it’s vitally important to make an ethical decision that benefits all parties involved. 

In this article, we delve into the ethical principles of nursing and share some useful tips for nurses to follow.

What is Ethics in Nursing?

Generally speaking, ethics involves what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. The nursing code of ethics outlined by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) concerns itself with the moral aspects of nursing practice. They allow healthcare workers to maintain quality standards and demonstrate their professionalism whilst navigating complex scenarios. This agreed code of ethics for nurses should be upheld when working with patients.

Core Ethical Principles of Nursing

The four core ethical principles of nursing are:

1) Non-maleficence

Non-maleficence essentially means to “do no harm”. This principle states that nurses should always avoid or minimise harm caused to patients. Nurses should only perform tasks to their own level of competence and training. If a nurse feels out of their depth when caring for a patient, they can ask more experienced nurses to intervene.

2) Beneficence

Beneficence means to act in a way that is morally good. This principle states that all actions, such as choosing a treatment plan, should contribute to the overall welfare of the patient. A professional nurse that is beneficent acts with kindness, compassion and empathy. For example, a nurse may stay by a patient’s side and hold their hand whilst they decline.

3) Autonomy

Autonomy is the belief that all patients should have control when making decisions about their own health. A patient’s choice should always be respected even if a nurse disagrees with it. Nurses can apply autonomy by keeping patients up-to-date about their condition, treatments and any potential complications. 

4) Justice

Nurses should always be fair when making decisions. All patients should be treated equally regardless of their condition, race, socio-economic status or background. Time and resources should not be assigned based on favouritism or bias. This will ensure that healthcare settings remain free from discrimination.

Ethical Principle Tips for Nurses

  • Put your patients first. Nurses should always prioritise their patient’s health and wellbeing. Patients should be provided with all the necessary information about their condition, without compromising their privacy or dignity.
  • Communicate clearly. Communication is key when caring for patients, so always make sure to communicate openly with patients. Allow them to express their thoughts and ensure they fully understand their condition and subsequent treatment.
  • Make teamwork a priority. Nurses who work as part of a successful team will see the best possible results. If a patient is being treated by multiple nurses, it’s vitally important to share regular updates with others.
  • Keep records up-to-date. Nurses are required to maintain clear and accurate records for all patients. This allows fellow healthcare professionals to fully understand each patient’s condition and treatment plan.
  • Work within your own skill set. Nurses should only work within their competence and should not attempt any tasks for which they are not fully trained.  Asking other professionals for help when needed will maintain nurse and patient safety.
  • Complete regular training. Training should be completed often to improve knowledge within the nursing team. This will demonstrate your commitment to patient care and the nursing profession as a whole.
  • Guide less experienced colleagues. Experienced nurses should always take the time to train their colleagues and guide them through tasks. You could complete further training to aid this if advancing into a leadership role.

Caring Careers in Nursing

Nursing is one of the largest professions in the UK. Whether you’re new to nursing care work or are looking to advance in your healthcare role, Safehands Recruitment can help. Register with us today to take the next step in your nursing career.

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