Technology underscores value of nursing code of ethics

By | 2022-10-10T14:46:11-04:00 September 25th, 2019|8 Comments

In a profession continually ranked above all others for honesty and ethics, ongoing discussions about delivering quality care with strong integrity and principles is essential.

nursing code of ethicsFor 17 consecutive years, nurses have been named the most honest and ethical profession in Gallup polls, most recently earning the title in December 2018. But even with the confidence of patients and the public, maintaining the nursing code of ethics standards is an ever-evolving process.

Advances in medicine, technology, end-of-life care, health insurance and other issues are transforming the way healthcare is delivered, making ethics an important consideration.

Social media nursing ethics to consider

For many nurses, social media serves as a tool to make healthcare more efficient while improving collaboration and communication among peers worldwide. This can have a great impact as nurses connect and exchange information, ideas and best practices. It can also bring to question patient privacy.

The ANA offers principles for social networking related to the nursing code of ethics that remind nurses:

  • Not to transmit or post any identifiable patient information.
  • To be aware that patients, colleagues, organizations and employers may view postings.
  • To report any content that could harm a patient’s privacy, rights or welfare.

“Nurses need to be aware of the professional reputation they’re creating for themselves and how they’re using online tools,” Robert Fraser, MN, RN, a primary care nurse, author and digital health strategist from Toronto, told HealthLeaders Media in an August 2018 article. “Social media does provide new opportunities and new ways of approaching how we communicate, but nurses need to reflect on their professional identity and their professional expectations within the workplace.”

nursing code of ethics

Two CNAs at a Glenview, Ill., nursing home were recently fired after posting a video to SnapChat of a 91-year-old dementia patient being teased over not wanting to wear a gown, according to WGN. The woman’s family is suing the nursing home.

“This was a sick game the two CNAs decided to play for their own enjoyment,” attorney John Perconti, who is representing the woman’s family in the lawsuit, told the TV station. “By filing this lawsuit and pursuing this lawsuit, we will prevent this from happening to other individuals in this facility, as well as other facilities.”

With constant access to smartphones in the workplace, inappropriate communication such as a text or post that might seem innocent or even personal and unrelated to the job could be cause for discipline. Legal expert Nancy Brent, MS, JD, RN, highlighted the issue of texting at work in her blog post, “Is Texting at Work Acceptable for Nurses?”

“Because you are a licensed professional, you have an obligation to be ‘professional’ at all times, whether or not you are practicing nursing,” Brent wrote. “Thus, being convicted of a DUI or shoplifting, or texting your husband’s ex-wife while at work and stoking an ongoing feud, may result in you being professionally disciplined for unprofessional conduct.”

Nursing code of ethics issues surrounding EHRs

nursing code of ethicsAlthough the advent of electronic health records (EHRs) has provided many benefits, experts have found some ethical dilemmas surrounding their use — particularly when it comes to patient safety, according to a January 2018 study published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.

“Evidence is mounting that EHRs are resulting in unintended consequences with patient safety implications,” the study authors wrote. “Clinical teams confront usability challenges that can present ethical issues requiring ethical decision-making models to support clinicians in appropriate action on behalf of safe, effective clinical care.”

Researchers found although there is a 95% saturation rate of EHR in healthcare settings, more education, support from nurse leaders and patient interaction is needed.

“For care characterized by ‘screen-driven information gathering,’ the patient’s story of his/her illness may be lost to the goal of generating standard data points that, in turn, trigger algorithms and practice recommendations,” the study stated. “This computational capacity may establish EHR information as authoritative, potentially displacing work processes critical to nurse-patient interaction.”

Nursing ethics in end-of-life care

Today patients have a voice with nurses and physicians about their end-of-life treatment more than ever before. But even with these strides, nursing code of ethics issues surrounding end-of-life care continue to exist.

Both patients and healthcare providers associate more procedures, chemotherapy and intensive care with better care, Haider Warraich, MD, a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., wrote in a recent Vox article. Warraich cites studies that show patients with cancer and heart disease receiving palliative care, which focuses on quality of life versus quantity, can live longer.

“While the goal of palliative care is to help people with a serious illness live as well as possible — physically, emotionally and spiritually — rather than as long as possible, some people receiving palliative care might also live longer since they avoid the complications associated with procedures, medications and hospitalization,” Warraich wrote.

Rapidly increasing technological advances that save lives, such as pacemakers and mechanical pumps placed in the heart, can create a dilemma when terminally ill patients want the devices disconnected, according to Warraich.

“Many patients with terminal illnesses who want to deactivate these devices find resistance from the health system, since some continue to equate deactivating them with euthanasia,” Warraich wrote. “We need to continue to make sure that even as technological advances blossom, patients remain at the center and physicians continue to honor their wishes.”

Let our nursing code of ethics courses guide your practice.


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About the Author:

Heather Cygan
Heather Cygan is content development manager for, a Relias company. She was named among the 2018 Top Women in Healthcare Marketing by Digital Megaphone. The recognition honors the work of female marketers leading the way in the healthcare industry. Heather has been developing healthcare content for more than 10 years and has a bachelors of arts degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.


  1. Avatar
    Liz September 25, 2019 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Correction: Haider Warraich is a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center (not Heather).

    • Heather Cygan
      Heather Cygan September 25, 2019 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      You are correct. We just updated the story with the correct name of “Haider.”

      • Avatar
        John P Kauchick, RN,BSN October 3, 2019 at 8:56 am - Reply

        Are they not posting any further comments? I submitted yesterday.

        • Heather Cygan
          Heather Cygan October 4, 2019 at 12:10 pm - Reply

          Hi John. Your comment has been approved.

  2. Avatar
    John Kauchick, RN,BSN October 2, 2019 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    The public and patients are not fully informed about ethics in nursing. In particular, that nursing management appears to be be granted immunity for bad behaviors. These include unjust dicipline of subordinates, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of power. Nursing journals , professional organizations and their media ally’s have taken the stance that these behaviors are acceptable if under the purvue of daily management duties. If it is kept off conference agenda’s and out of the press, it doesn’t exist. If patients and the public where allowed the truth, the yearly rubber stamp of “most ethical profession” might be called into question. Powerful institutions will do anything to maintain a positive image for the public consumption. The public is entitled to full disclosure. There have been several civil jury verdicts against nurse managers. Readers are encouraged to find any examples of these managers being disciplined for misconduct. Can’t find any? I rest my case.

    • Avatar
      Dee October 6, 2019 at 5:49 pm - Reply

      Totally agree! Have experienced this!

  3. Avatar October 3, 2019 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Ethical values are essential for all healthcare workers. Ethical practice is a foundation for nurses, who deal with ethical issues daily. Ethical dilemmas arise as nurses care for patients. These dilemmas may, at times, conflict with the Code of Ethics or with the nurse’s ethical values. Nurses are advocates for patients and must find a balance while delivering patient care. There are four main principles of ethics: autonomy, beneficence, justice, and non-maleficence.

  4. Avatar
    Rajesh Kumar October 24, 2019 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    I think people make a business professional nursing people wants only for money rare nurse do own responsibility Rajesh male staff nurse

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