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Copyright 2006 by ICN - International Council of Nurses, 3, place Jean-Marteau, 1201 Geneva (Switzerland) ISBN: 92-95040-41-4 Printing : Imprimerie Fornara
THE ICN CODE OF ETHICS FOR NURSES
An international code of ethics for nurses was first adopted by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) in 1953. It has been revised and reaffirmed at various times since, most recently with this review and revision completed in 2005.
Nurses have four fundamental responsibilities: to promote health, to prevent illness, to restore health and to alleviate suffering. The need for nursing is universal. Inherent in nursing is respect for human rights, including cultural rights, the right to life and choice, to dignity and to be treated with respect. Nursing care is respectful of and unrestricted by considerations of age, color, creed, culture, disability or illness, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, politics, race or social status. Nurses render health services to the individual, the family and the community and co-ordinate their services with those of related groups.
THE ICN CODE
The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses has four principal elements that outline the standards of ethical conduct.
ELEMENTS OF THE CODE
1. NURSES AND PEOPLE
The nurse's primary professional responsibility is to people requiring nursing care.
In providing care, the nurse promotes an environment in which the human rights, values, customs and spiritual beliefs of the individual, family and community are respected.
The nurse ensures that the individual receives sufficient information on which to base consent for care and related treatment.
The nurse holds in confidence personal information and uses judgement in sharing this information.
The nurse shares with society the responsibility for initiating and supporting action to meet the health and social needs of the public, in particular those of vulnerable populations.
The nurse also shares responsibility to sustain and protect the natural environment from depletion, pollution, degradation and destruction.
2. NURSES AND PRACTICE
The nurse carries personal responsibility and accountability for nursing practice, and for maintaining competence by continual learning.
The nurse maintains a standard of personal health such that the ability to provide care is not compromised.
The nurse uses judgement regarding individual competence when accepting and delegating responsibility.
The nurse at all times maintains standards of personal conduct which reflect well on the profession and enhance public confidence.
The nurse, in providing care, ensures that use of technology and scientific advances are compatible with the safety, dignity and rights of people.
3. NURSES AND THE PROFESSION
The nurse assumes the major role in determining and implementing acceptable standards of clinical nursing practice, management, research and education.
The nurse is active in developing a core of research-based professional knowledge.
The nurse, acting through the professional organization, participates in creating and maintaining safe, equitable social and economic working conditions in nursing.
4. NURSES AND CO-WORKERS
The nurse sustains a co-operative relationship with co-workers in nursing and other fields.
The nurse takes appropriate action to safeguard individuals, families and communities when their health is endangered by a coworker or any other person.
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE OF THE ICN CODE OF ETHICS FOR NURSES
The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses is a guide for action based on social values and needs. It will have meaning only as a living document if applied to the realities of nursing and health care in a changing society.
To achieve its purpose the Code must be understood, internalized and used by nurses in all aspects of their work. It must be available to students and nurses throughout their study and work lives.
APPLYING THE ELEMENTS OF THE ICN CODE OF ETHICS FOR NURSES
The four elements of the ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses : nurses and people, nurses and practice, nurses and the profession, and nurses and co-workers, give a framework for the standards of conduct. The following chart will assist nurses to translate the standards into action. Nurses and nursing students can therefore:
- Study the standards under each element of the Code.
- Reflect on what each standard means to you. Think about how you can apply ethics in your nursing domain: practice, education, research or management.
- Discuss the Code with co-workers and others.
- Use a specific example from experience to identify ethical dilemmas and standards of conduct as outlined in the Code. Identify how you would resolve the dilemmas.
- Work in groups to clarify ethical decision making and reach a consensus on standards of ethical conduct.
- Collaborate with your national nurses' association, co-workers, and others in the continuous application of ethical standards in nursing practice, education, management and research.
Element of the Code # 1: NURSES AND PEOPLE
Element of the Code # 2: NURSES AND PRACTICE
Element of the Code # 3: NURSES AND THE PROFESSION
Element of the Code #4: NURSES AND CO-WORKERS
DISSEMINATION OF THE ICN CODE OF ETHICS FOR NURSES
To be effective the ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses must be familiar to nurses. We encourage you to help with its dissemination to schools of nursing, practicing nurses, the nursing press and other mass media. The Code should also be disseminated to other health professions, the general public, consumer and policy-making groups, human rights organizations and employers of nurses.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS USED IN THE ICN CODE OF ETHICS FOR NURSES
Co-worker: Other nurses and other health and non-health related workers and professionals.
Co-operative relationship: A professional relationship based on collegial and reciprocal actions, and behavior that aim to achieve certain goals.
Family: A social unit composed of members connected through blood, kinship, emotional or legal
Nurse shares with society: A nurse, as a health professional and a citizen, initiates and supports appropriate action to meet the health and social needs of the public.
Personal health: Mental, physical, social and spiritual well being of the nurse.
Personal information: Information obtained during professional contact that is private to an individual or family, and which, when disclosed, may violate the right to privacy, cause inconvenience, embarrassment, or harm to the individual or family.
Related groups: Other nurses, health care workers or other professionals providing service to an individual, family or community and working toward desired goals.