Student Nurse Laura

Orem – "creative effort of one human being to help another human being."

Ethics, Knowing and Using

Posted by Laura on January 2, 2015

The American Nursing Association (ANA) Code of Ethics for Nurses and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Code of Ethics for Nurses, both outline ethical practices in nursing. Where one reaches out across the United States, the other is a global code but still emphasizes the same standards to nurses, nursing practice and profession. One common thread seen in my practice would be the importance of compassionate care of a patient’s needs – or as provision 2 in the ANA states “primary commitment is to the patient” (ANA, pg 5). Compassionate care comes from understanding the patient’s needs and showing respect and courtesy (Moore, 2014).
Respect and courtesy fall easily into another area we see – respecting patients’ privacy. The nurse holds in confidence patient’s personal information and uses judgment in sharing this information (ICN, p.2). The pre-operative area I work, a nurse could easily be wrong by speaking too loudly during assessment questions, as there is little privacy in the changing area. So information overheard or visually seeing a person brought in for surgery can compromise a patient’s privacy.

Uncomfortable Ethics

I thought pulling conflicting experience would be hard for me, but I realize I encounter this every week. I’m not sure I would call it a belief system, but our ideas of ethics are at opposite ends. I work with prisoners quite often. Our Eighth amendment guarantees a prisoner’s right to healthcare, and from the state prison system, it is said 43.8% of the prisoners come to incarceration with at least one medical problem (Kellogg, 2009). Though I would say, most prisoners I see have an infliction due to a recent fight in their facility.

Respect Sign

Figure 1. Respect sign. This figure illustrates various paths.

I provide prisoners the same professional care as the other patients we get. They all get my best hands-on nursing care. I do interact differently though. I still have little battles in my mind while I take care of them. Was this person a rapist… did they just get caught up in something and were truly a good person? It can be very hard. I believe I react with respect and integrity, but most likely not with the same friendliness. I’m not unfriendly, as I’m very friendly by nature. I hope to deal with my feelings on this to not let it interfere with my care.
I don’t think I respond any different today, as of yesterday with these patients. I am still working through it. This dilemma is an ongoing ethical reflection. Moral distress can affect the nurse’s ability to cope, thus leading to decreased self-esteem and ultimately an inability to provide good care (Austin, Kelecevic, Goble, & Mekechuk, 2009). So I best get a grip on this.

I used the sign of respect because I couldn’t find a sign showing prisoners without it making light of their situation. This image was found on a Correctional Nurses Network. I believe it signifies we all should all use respect, ethics, integrity and honesty with patients from all walks of life.

American Nursing Association (2010) Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements. Retrieved from: code-of-ethics.pdf

Austin, W., Kelecevic, J., Goble, E., & Mekechuk, J. (2009). An overview of moral distress and the pediatric intensive care team. Nursing Ethics, 16(1), 57-68. doi: 10.1177/0969733008097990

International Council of Nurses (2012) The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses. Retrieved from

Kellogg, V. A. (2009). Exploring a prisoner’s Eighth Amendment right to health care. Journal of Nursing Law, 13(3), 78-88. doi: 10.1891/1073-7472.13.3.78

Moore, A. (2014). Compassionate care… this practice profile is based on ns704 price b (2013) Promoting compassionate care through learning journeys. Nursing Standard, 28(28), 61.

[Untitled illustration of respect sign]. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from

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