Understanding the Code of Ethics for Nurses

What You Need to Know About The Code of Ethics

As a nurse, you must ensure that every patient has a voice, that patients understand what to expect following a new diagnosis or surgical procedure, and that people understand their options for end-of-life care, all of which can create serious ethical challenges. The nursing code of ethics can help you make wise decisions when confronted with any ethical dilemma, no matter where you work. The code of ethics is beneficial for contract nurses. It can help resolve ethical problems when you are new to a facility and don't have the political capital to bring attention to certain issues.

Apply Now

Professional Relationships

The code of ethics for nurses helps them learn how to set professional boundaries with patients and their families. Nurses provide care to people when they're at their most vulnerable; not only are many of these patients sick and in need of medical care, but they also must bare their souls—and their bodies—to nurses, which can cause them to develop feelings that go beyond a professional patient-nurse relationship.

According to the nursing code of ethics, nurses must preserve strong professional boundaries with patients and their family members. This means treating all patients with the same level of compassion and avoiding behavior that could be construed as inappropriate. Nurses are also advised to avoid spending too much time with any one patient; any time not spent on direct patient care should be spent on charting, professional development activities, or other job-related tasks. Dr. Mary Ann Remshardt also recommends practicing in the "zone of care," which involves treating all patients with respect, dressing professionally, and being fair to all patients.

Advancing The Profession

One of the key principles outlined in the nursing code of ethics is the obligation to contribute to the profession's advancement in some way. Many nurses do this by writing case studies, assisting with clinical trials, or conducting their own research studies to assess the efficacy of new treatments. According to Northeastern State University, nursing research is essential for advancing the profession and improving patient outcomes. It can identify new treatment options, help medical professionals respond to demographic changes, and make it easier to comply with changing government regulations.

You can also advance the nursing profession by giving poster presentations at professional conferences. In an article published in BMC Medical Education, Rowe and Ilic explain that posters help medical professionals transfer their knowledge to conference attendees; they also note that the success of a poster presentation relies heavily on the individual design elements and overall appeal of the poster. With the right design skills—or some assistance from a talented designer—you can use poster presentations to share your knowledge with other nurses and spark lively discussions about important topics.

Patient Rights And Responsibilities

Nurses have many roles, but one of the most important is that of an advocate for patients. Not all patients understand their rights, so it's up to nurses to speak up when they see something wrong. The following are just a few examples of the patient-rights violations that can occur in a medical facility:

  • Failure to provide appropriate care
  • Administering sedatives or other psychotropic medications when it's not medically necessary
  • Understaffing certain units
  • Isolating patients or otherwise failing to address their need for social interaction
  • Failing to protect patients from abusive behavior


As a nurse, you need to speak up if you see any patient's rights being violated, whether it's a physician or another nurse committing the violation. If you're involved in clinical research, you're also obligated to protect the rights of study participants. Nursing ethics are critical when working with participants considered "vulnerable" because they have some physical or intellectual disability. Nurses are responsible for identifying these vulnerable patients and working to protect their rights for the duration of the treatment or study.

Contract nursing provides many opportunities to strengthen your clinical skills and form satisfying professional relationships with RNs from all over the world. It also comes with a lot of responsibility, so the nursing code of ethics is so important. Following this code of ethics can help you solve ethical problems and ensure your patients receive the best possible care.

Search All Nursing Jobs

Latest Blogs

Take the first step to starting your new career.

Authorized to work in the US? *
Job Type Interest *
Have you been on an Interim engagement with AMN before? *
Are you currently employed or on an active Interim engagement? *

How much notice would you have to give? *

What date are you available to start an Interim engagement? *

* Indicates Required Fields


I agree to receive emails, automated text messages and phone calls (including calls that contain prerecorded content) from and on behalf of AMN Healthcare, and affiliates. {{show_more}} I understand these messages will be to the email or phone number provided, and will be about employment opportunities, positions in which I’ve been placed, and my employment with AMN companies. See privacy policy or cookie policy for more details.

Complete Your Application!
AMN Healthcare NurseFinders logo
Continue to NurseFinders to complete your application and profile.