The Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses is structured around eight primary values that
are central to ethical nursing practice:
• safe, competent and ethical care
• health and well-being
• choice
• dignity
• confidentiality
• justice
• accountability
• quality practice environments
With each value, specific responsibility statements are provided. Ethical reflection, which
begins with a review of one’s own ethics, and judgment are required to determine how a
particular value or responsibility applies in a particular nursing context. There is room
within the profession for disagreement among nurses about the relative weight of
different ethical values and principles. More than one proposed intervention may be
ethical and reflective of good practice. Discussion and questioning are extremely helpful
in the resolution of ethical issues. As appropriate, persons in care, colleagues in nursing
and other disciplines, professional nurses’ associations, colleges, ethics committees and
other experts should be included in discussions about ethical problems. In addition
legislation, standards of practice, policies and guidelines of professional nurses’
associations, colleges and nurses’ unions may also assist in problem-solving. Further,
models for ethical decision-making, such as those described in CNA’s Everyday Ethics,
can assist nurses in thinking through ethical problems.