Nurses’ Code of Ethics and how it have Changed over Time

  • Uncategorized


Nurses’Code of Ethics and how it have Changed over Time

Nurses’Code of Ethics And How It Have Changed Over Time

Nursingis one of the most dynamic professions in the world. Apparently, thisis because nurses are literally tasked with the critical objective ofoffering healthcare to people from all walks of life. In doing so,they are expected to help the individuals restore and promote theirown health, prevent further illnesses and alleviate suffering.According to Niles(2015),these are critical tasks, especially, considering the fact that thesame nurses are expected to embrace human rights in the provision oftheir services which do not regard to conditions of culture, religionor race. Basing on these facts, therefore, it is right to state thatthe code of ethics for nurses was established with the sole purposesof asserting the ethical duties and obligations of every nurse aswell as setting nonnegotiable standards of ethics that define thenursing practice.

Cominginto Being of the Nurses’ Code of Ethics

Nursingas a professional practice has evolved over years. When it startedseveral decades ago, these medical practitioners did not have clearcut responsibilities. For instance, during times of war and civilunrest, nurses were greatly depended upon to sustain the health ofnot only those partaking in the war but also those affected by it.Ideally, it was difficult establishing the extents that a nurse wouldgo and what he would take up as his main responsibility. This stateof confusion necessitated establishment of clear rules andregulations that would somewhat bring professionalism in thepractice. Therefore, in 1926, the American Nurses Association (ANA)set out to publish a document with a suggested code that sought tooutline the accepted ethical behavior for nurses. According toGastmans(2016),the document lived on to become the first code of ethics that wasunanimously used throughout the country for several years until itsfirst revision in 1960.

Melissa(2015)notes that the first code of ethics for nurses remained relativelystable for an extended period of time. It was very instrumental inbringing professionalism to the entire practice because it set clearand stringent directives that all nurses had to strictly adhere to inthe provision of their services. Among the objectives that the codeset out to achieve included identifying and differentiating theresponsibilities of nurses, setting clear what is expected of themfrom an ethical perspective and identifying the various moraldilemmas and issues associated with the nursing practice and hownurses should respond to them. The cultural diversity that definedthe then first moving environment implies that the code was verydynamic so as to acknowledge the views, preferences and opinions ofpeople from all walks of life.

Theeffectiveness of the first code of ethics can be highlighted by itsimmense influence in the nursing’s journey towards professionalism.For several years, Gastmans(2016)notes that the proposed code was a critical point of reference thatliterally guided nurses in developing their moral decision makingskills. A series of good critical decisions made over a long periodof time helped establish nurses as extremely important and veryresourceful professions in the society. According to Melissa(2015),this success was largely because in its formation, the firstsuggested code put a lot of emphasis on the relationship betweenthree important elements in healthcare. These include relationshipbetween: nurses and patient nurse and medicine and nurses and theirprofessions.

TheCode of Ethics to Date

Nurses’code of ethics has changed significantly over the past few decades.According to Niles(2015),this change has been inevitable because nursing in its essence is avery dynamic practice that is influenced by so many factors. Therehave been a number of revisions done to the original code of 1926. AsGastmans(2016)notes, the purpose of these revisions have been to align the code ofethics with the ever changing morals and values of the society.Apparently, nurses as a profession exists for the sole purpose ofhelping revive and promote the healthcare of society. Therefore, asthe beliefs and the cultures of the society change with time, it isprudent that the manner in which healthcare is provided changes toaccommodate the new ways of doing things.

Despitethe above changes however, Niles(2015)states that the aim and the objectives of the nurses’ code ofethics have remained relatively stable. To date, this document stillexists for the main purposes of clarifying the duties and obligationsof all nurses, setting clear nonnegotiable standards of ethics in thenursing profession and offering guidance into understanding theposition of nursing in the society. Over the years, these objectiveshave been achieved through different strategies as informed by thenumerous revisions that have been done on the original code. In theUnited States for instance, even though different states might havetheir unique codes, they are all underpinned on the above threepurposes.

Asof 2015, the International Council of Nurses Code of Ethics set clearthe framework for the nursing practice. According to Melissa(2015),the document contains four distinct areas that touch on the criticalelements of the practice as well as the responsibilities of allnurses. These areas include prevention of illness, promotion ofhealth, alleviation of suffering, and restoration of health. In theirday to day practice, nurses are expected to ensure they support thesefour areas to the best of their ability. The patient still remainsthe most important shareholder in healthcare. As such, his desiresare primary and his human rights should be observed at all times. Inaddition, the current international code of ethics emphasizes for thetotal disregard of cultural, religious, social, racial and ethicaldifferences among patients. In other words, every patient should beaccorded the same level of respect and treatment by all nurses.


Nurses’code of ethics is an important subject that everyone needs tounderstand. This is because at some point we often need the servicesof nurses who exist for the sole purpose of making sure we arehealthy. Understanding the code of ethics makes us appreciate nursesand acknowledge their important position in the society. For theprofessionals themselves, the document is important because itinterprets the fundamental values and commitments of their work. Inaddition, it sets clear the boundaries within which they can operateas well as offer guidance regarding how far they can go like in casesentailing duties beyond individual patient encounters.


Gastmans,C. (2016). Dignity-enhancing nursing care: A foundational ethicalframework. SAGEPublications, 20(2),142–149.

Melissa,K.S. (2015). NursesCode of Ethics.Retrieved from

Niles,N.J. (2015). Basicsof the U.S. Health Care System.Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.