THE CODE OF ETHICS AND PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT FOR NURSES – The nursing profession is a respected and honorable profession that requires high ethical standards and professionalism. To ensure that nurses practice ethically and professionally, there is a code of ethics and professional conduct that guides their behavior and actions.

The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Nurses is a set of guidelines that outlines the ethical principles and values that nurses must uphold in their practice. It provides a framework for decision-making and guides nurses in their interactions with patients, families, colleagues, and the wider community.

The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Nurses is a vital tool in promoting the nursing profession’s values and principles, ensuring high-quality care for patients, and maintaining the public’s trust in the nursing profession.

Purpose and Importance of the Code

The primary purpose of the Code of Ethics for Nurses is to ensure that nurses provide safe, competent, and compassionate care to their patients. It sets forth the ethical responsibilities and obligations of nurses, emphasizing their commitment to the well-being and dignity of those under their care.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) code of ethics for nurses

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) first adopted an international code of ethics for nurses in 1953. Since then, it has been revised and reaffirmed on several occasions, most recently in 2021.

The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses serves as a statement of the ethical values, responsibilities, and professional accountabilities that guide nursing practice for both nurses and nursing students. It provides a framework for ethical decision-making that meets the professional standards set by regulatory bodies, although it is not a code of conduct.

The Code outlines ethical guidance for nurses regarding their roles, duties, responsibilities, behaviours, professional judgment, and relationships with patients, fellow healthcare professionals, and the wider community. It serves as a foundational document that can be built upon, in combination with local laws, regulations, and professional standards, to guide ethical nursing practice in all settings, roles, and domains.


Nurses have a long history of providing care that is respectful of human rights and dignity. They are committed to promoting health, preventing illness, restoring health, and alleviating suffering. Nurses work with people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds, and they are dedicated to providing care that is equitable and inclusive.


The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses is a framework for ethical conduct that guides nurses in their work with patients, colleagues, and the profession. The Code has four principal elements:

  • Nurses and patients or other people requiring care or services: Nurses have a primary professional responsibility to people requiring nursing care and services. They promote an environment in which the human rights, values, customs, religious and spiritual beliefs of patients are acknowledged and respected. Nurses also ensure that patients receive understandable, accurate, sufficient, and timely information on which to base consent for care and treatment.
  • Nurses and practice: Nurses carry personal responsibility and accountability for ethical nursing practice. They maintain competence by engaging in continuous professional development and lifelong learning. Nurses also practise within the limits of their individual competence and regulated or authorised scope of practice.
  • Nurses and the profession: Nurses assume the major leadership role in determining and implementing evidence-informed, acceptable standards of clinical nursing practice, management, research, and education. They are also active in developing and sustaining a core of professional values.
  • Nurses and global health: Nurses value health care as a human right, affirming the right to universal access to health care for all. They also uphold the dignity, freedom and worth of all human beings and oppose all forms of exploitation. Nurses lead or contribute to sound health policy development and contribute to population health and work towards the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Code of Ethics for Nurses in India

Nurses in India are expected to uphold the following ethical standards in their work:

  • Respect for the uniqueness of individuals: Nurses should provide care to all individuals, regardless of their caste, creed, religion, culture, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or any other personal attributes. They should also individualize care to meet the specific needs of each individual, taking into account their beliefs, values, and cultural sensitivities.
  • Respect for the rights of individuals: Nurses should respect the right of individuals to make decisions about their own care and to participate in the decision-making process. They should also protect the privacy of individuals and keep their personal information confidential.
  • Maintaining competence: Nurses should maintain their competence by engaging in continuing education and professional development. They should also uphold the standards of care set by the Indian Nursing Council.
  • Practicing within ethical, professional, and legal boundaries: Nurses should practice within the ethical, professional, and legal boundaries set by the Indian Nursing Council and the law of the state.
  • Working harmoniously with members of the health team: Nurses should work harmoniously with members of the health team to meet the needs of patients. They should appreciate the team efforts in rendering care and cooperate, coordinate, and collaborate with other health professionals.
  • Reciprocating the trust invested in the nursing profession by society: Nurses should demonstrate personal etiquettes and professional attributes in all dealings. They should uphold the trust that society has placed in the nursing profession.


The Code of Professional Conduct for Nurses in India outlines the ethical standards that nurses are expected to uphold in their work. The Code is divided into six sections, each of which addresses a different aspect of nursing practice.

Professional Responsibility and Accountability

This section emphasizes the importance of nurses maintaining high standards of personal conduct and accountability for their actions. Nurses are also expected to be compassionate and to provide patients with adequate information so that they can make informed decisions about their care.

Nursing Practice

This section outlines the specific ethical standards that nurses are expected to uphold in their delivery of care. Nurses are expected to treat all patients with dignity and respect, and to promote their autonomy and participation in their care. They are also expected to ensure that their practice is safe and that they consult with other health professionals when necessary.

Communication and Interpersonal Relationships

This section emphasizes the importance of nurses establishing and maintaining effective interpersonal relationships with patients, families, and colleagues. Nurses are also expected to appreciate and nurture the professional roles of their colleagues, and to cooperate with other health professionals to meet the needs of patients.

Valuing Human Beings

This section emphasizes the importance of nurses protecting patients from harm and respecting their right to self-determination. Nurses are also expected to encourage patients to speak for themselves on issues affecting their health and welfare, and to respect their choices.


This section outlines the ethical standards that nurses are expected to uphold in their management of nursing care. Nurses are expected to ensure that resources are used appropriately, and that they participate in the supervision and education of students and other formal care providers. They are also expected to communicate effectively and to participate in the evaluation of nursing services.

Professional Advancement

This section emphasizes the importance of nurses contributing to the advancement of nursing knowledge and practice. Nurses are expected to ensure that the human rights of patients are protected while pursuing the advancement of knowledge, and to contribute to the development of nursing practice. They are also expected to participate in determining and implementing quality care, and to take responsibility for updating their knowledge and competencies.


The Code of Ethics for Nurses is a cornerstone of the nursing profession, providing a framework for ethical practice. It outlines the fundamental principles that guide nurses in delivering safe, compassionate, and patient-centered care. By adhering to these principles, nurses uphold the integrity of the profession and contribute to positive patient outcomes.


What happens if a nurse violates the Code of Ethics?

When a nurse violates the Code of Ethics, consequences can vary depending on the severity of the violation. It may result in disciplinary action by the nursing board, including sanctions, fines, or even revocation of the nursing license.

Is the Code of Ethics for Nurses legally binding?

While the Code of Ethics for Nurses is not legally binding, it serves as a moral compass and professional standard for nursing practice. Violations of ethical principles may have legal implications depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances.

How often is the Code of Ethics revised?

The Code of Ethics for Nurses undergoes periodic review and revision to ensure its relevance and alignment with evolving healthcare practices. The American Nurses Association (ANA) regularly reviews the code to address emerging ethical issues and incorporate new evidence-based practices. Nurses are encouraged to stay updated with the latest version of the code to guide their practice.

Are nursing students bound by the Code of Ethics?

Yes, nursing students are expected to adhere to the Code of Ethics for Nurses during their education and clinical training. The code provides a foundation for ethical decision-making and professional behavior, guiding students in developing their ethical competence and shaping their future nursing practice.

Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and should not substitute professional medical advice.

Name -Parika Parika holds a Master's in Nursing and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Nursing. In addition to her clinical experience, Parika has also served as a nursing instructor for the past 10 years, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion for the nursing profession.

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