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Arkansas State University

The Value of Ethics in Nursing

Ethics are important in every aspect of our lives, including our careers. And there are certain professions, like nursing, that place a greater emphasis on ethics due to the life-and-death responsibilities of healthcare providers. Nurses have the power to change lives in the briefest of moments. The decisions nurses make not only affect the patient, but also the patient’s family, for years to come. For this reason, nursing is one of the top most revered professions.

Nurses Are Known for Ethics

Most of us have opinions about the ethical nature of various professions. For example, most Americans would say that the ethics of a criminal defense lawyer are different from those of a fire fighter. While one might expect Americans to hold life-saving figures like first responders in the highest ethical regard, it turns out that Americans trust professional nurses the most.

In 2021, nurses were ranked the most honest and ethical professionals by Americans in the Gallup poll. Approximately 81% of people surveyed said that they consider nurses to be high or very high in honesty and ethical standards. This is not a new trend, either. In fact, nurses have won this esteemed distinction for 20 years in a row.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) states that patients trust nurses so much because nurses are responsible for ensuring patient safety. Nurses demonstrate their ethical beliefs and skills every day in their interactions with patients, further reinforcing the image of trustworthiness. The ANA believes that this means nurses should be involved in more decisions about healthcare systems and the direction the healthcare professions are taking.

Strengthening Your Ethical Decision-Making Skills

According to the ANA, professional nursing is the “protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities; prevention of illness and injury; facilitation of healing; alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response; and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, groups, communities, and populations.” The choice to become a nurse means that you are actively choosing to protect and care for others. This is a major responsibility and one that will inevitably require you to make difficult decisions.

To strengthen ethical decision-making skills, all professional nurses must adopt an ethical decision-making model or ethical framework. An ethical decision-making model is a structured system that helps nurses sort through the many complex factors that may influence an important decision.

In the RN to BSN program at Arkansas State University, you will take several courses that will help you build an effective decision-making model. NRS 3353: Aging and the Older Adult will introduce you to the ethical considerations of working with aging patients and help prepare you to be a resource to them during health challenges. HP 3413 Cultural Competence in Health Professionals will teach you how to take into consideration the cultural values of diverse patients and apply those values within your ethical decision-making model.

The Ethical Decision-Making Model

Over the years, practitioners in the helping professions have developed various ethical frameworks designed to help people make ethical decisions. In 2012, researcher E. Park proposed an integrated decision-making model that brought together all of the best aspects of various ethical frameworks. Park found that the following six steps yielded positive experiences when nurses had to make difficult ethical decisions:

  1. Identify the ethical problem. Describe the ethical dilemma in as much detail as possible.
  2. Collect additional information to identify the problem and develop solutions. This may require conducting evidence-based research to find proven solutions for a problem.
  3. Develop alternative decisions for analysis and comparison.
  4. Select the best alternatives and give reasons why these options are best.
  5. Develop diverse, practical ways to implement the ethical decisions and actions.
  6. Evaluate the effects and develop strategies to deal with similar occurrences in the future.

It takes time to hone your skills in ethical decision-making. However, as you expand your knowledge base and reflect on past decisions, you can become an expert ethical decision maker who will gain patient trust.

A skilled and sensitive nurse understands the importance of constantly referring to the ethical decision-making model when working with patients. A decision that may be right for one patient may not be the best choice for another patient in a similar situation. Americans trust nurses as the most ethical and honest professionals because nurses continuously strive for the highest standards when working to protect lives.

Learn more about the Arkansas State online RN to BSN program.


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