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Assessing Ethics and Honesty in Nursing

A survey says nurses’ high standards set them apart from other professionals.

Across the business and professional landscape, companies use codes of conduct to set organizational standards for ethical and honest interactions. The Coca-Cola Company has its Code of Business Conduct, providing guidelines to help govern transactions around the globe.1 The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct has roots stretching back to 1854.2

The American Nurses Association (ANA) says its Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements also reaches back to the 19th century.3 And in adhering to the 21st-century version, nurses appear to be hitting it out of the ballpark. For the 17th consecutive year, nurses received the top marks in the Gallup organization’s 2018 survey, Americans’ Ratings of the Honesty and Ethical Standards of Professions. Gallup polled 1,025 individuals, asking them: “Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields—very high, high, average, low, or very low?” About nurses, 84% responded “very high” or “high.”4

Assessing Ethics and Honesty in Nursing

Rounding out the top three were medical doctors, receiving very high/high marks from 67% of those surveyed, and pharmacists, receiving very high/high marks from 66% of respondents.

“With the exception of one year, 2001, when firefighters were on the list after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, nurses have far outpaced all other professions since they were added to the list two decades ago. Before 1999, pharmacists and clergy members were frequently the most highly rated professionals for their ethics,” writes Megan Brenan in “Nurses Again Outpace Other Professions for Honesty, Ethics.”4

Ethics Among Nurses

The ANA adopted its first ethics code for professionals in nursing careers in 1950. Since then, “… nursing has developed as its art, science, and practice have evolved, as society itself has changed, and as awareness of the nature and determinants of global health has grown,” the ANA says.

“The Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements … establishes the ethical standard for the profession and provides a guide for nurses to use in ethical analysis and decision-making,” the ANA says. “The Code is nonnegotiable in any setting.”

Today’s code has nine provisions, and within each are interpretive statements that take a deeper dive into appropriate conduct.

“The Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements should be a part of every nurse’s library,” the journal Critical Care Nurse says. “This document helps us frame our practice when answering the confusing ethical questions that arise in everyday practice, no matter the role in nursing or healthcare. It is the accountability of all nurses to incorporate these provisions and maintain the trust that our patients and society have placed in nursing.”5

If you’re a nurse, read on to review the ANA code. If you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, here’s your chance to learn more: 3

Provision 1
The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person.

Provision 2
The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community, or population.

Provision 3
The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.

Provision 4
The nurse has authority, accountability, and responsibility for nursing practice; makes decisions; and takes action consistent with the obligation to provide optimal patient care.

Provision 5
The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence, and continue personal and professional growth.

Provision 6
The nurse, through individual and collective effort, establishes, maintains, and improves the ethical environment of the work setting and conditions of employment that are conducive to safe, quality health care.

Provision 7
The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy.

Provision 8
The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy, and reduce health disparities.

Provision 9
The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional organizations, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and health policy.

Elevate Your Career With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing

When you’re ready to expand your contributions as a trusted nurse, an online RN to BSN program can help you build leadership and practical skills to advance your career. Walden University’s online nursing school prepares BSN degree candidates to exhibit accountability for personal and professional behaviors in accordance with standards of moral, ethical, and legal conduct.

Walden designs its Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)-accredited online BSN program to mesh with your career plans and busy lifestyle. After choosing from two program tracks, the RN to BSN or the RN to BSN to MSN, you can start taking nursing courses from day one. You’ll gain valuable skills through a practice learning experience with little or no travel, and hone assessment skills in an immersive virtual learning environment.

Building on the experience and expertise you’ve gained since becoming a nurse, you can pursue a BSN degree to help prepare you for new challenges and rewards. Whether you opt for a role in leadership or as an individual contributor, you’ll be ready to travel a path of the highest professional standards, modeling honesty and the ethical values that make you a credit to your profession.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an RN to BSN degree program. Expand your career options and earn your nursing degree online in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


The baccalaureate degree program in nursing (BSN), master’s degree program in nursing (MSN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Walden University are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,