"nursing viewed ethics not as the frosting on the cake
but as the cake itself "
- Marsha Fowler PHD, MDiv MS, RN, FAAN, FRSA
A rich history of nursing ethics
A new article in Journal of Christian Nursing
explores the development of nursing ethics alongside the growth of the profession itself. During the American Civil War, nursing professionalized and early nurse pioneers developed training protocols and ethical codes. From the onset, nursing ethics emphasized the centrality of morality and high character. Nurses in the Civil War treated soliders on both sides of the conflict and sought to improve the health of all their patients, regardless of who they were.
Nearly a century later, biomedical ethics emerged as a response to the medical atrocities commited during WW II and later, revelations of patient harm inflicted during experiments including at Tuskegee. Bioethics is primarily concerned with the ethical issues related to biomedical research and the practice of medicine. The Nuremberg Code
identified four major biomedical ethical principles which are still routinely taught: respect for autonomy, beneficience, nonmalficence, and justice.
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Nursing ethics is distinct from biomedical ethics as it is primarily relational, focusing on the development of relationships between the nurse and the patient, other health professionals, their self, the nursing profession, and society as a whole. Developing a healing relationship to treat the patient, not just the disease, is as fundamental to the nursing role today as it was 150 years ago.
Learn more about nursing's ethical heritage and the contributions of nurse leaders by reading the full article: Rising to "The Highest Morals" — The Rich History of Nursing Ethics".
This article also has a continuing education component. Earn 2.5
Fowler, M. D., & Schoonover-Shoffner, K. (2023). Rising to "The Highest Morals"-The Rich History of Nursing Ethics. Journal of Christian nursing, 40(2), 86–95. https://doi.org/10.1097/CNJ.0000000000001039