Legal / Ethical

Beneficence in Nursing: Nursing Code of Ethics Breakdown

  • Continuing NCC’s Nursing Code of Ethics Breakdown, Nurse Perkins explores the role of beneficence in nursing.
  • Learn about the ethical provisions that guide nurses and how these provisions can help guide your decision-making with patients.
  • Understand the definition of beneficence and how you can incorporate it into your decision-making while caring for a patient.

Cheryl Perkins


January 31, 2024
Simmons University

As a registered nurse, you will find yourself in an ethical dilemma and others throughout your nursing career. Understanding how ethical decisions affect the patient and oneself is crucial, as the consequences can have lifelong effects.  

As a nurse for 20 years, there have been many instances where the patient’s best interest must be considered regardless of my opinions or beliefs. For example, I had a patient who had been on bed rest for a few weeks for risks of pre-term delivery.  

Since the hospital would not allow children into the unit, I took the patient to the lobby in a wheelchair to see her children. This is an example of goodwill because I did what was best for the patient, and the patient could have a healthy, full-term baby boy. 

Nursing Code of Ethics 

The Nursing Code of Ethics was developed to guide nurses in their responsibilities of practicing ethically and making ethical decisions.   

There are nine provisions that will guide your professional career (American Nurses Association, 2023): 

  • Provision 1: “Nurses must practice with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person.” 
  • Provision 2: “The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community, or population.” 
  • Provision 3: “The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.” 
  • Provision 4: “The nurse has the authority, accountability, and responsibility for nursing practice, makes decisions, and takes action consistent with the obligation to promote health and to provide optimal care.” 
  • Provision 5: “The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence, and continue personal and professional growth.” 
  • Provision 6: “The nurse, through continual and collective effort, establishes, maintains, and improves the ethical environment of the work setting and conditions of employment conducive to safe, quality health care.” 
  • Provision 7: “The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards of development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy.” 
  • Provision 8: “The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy, and reduce health disparities.” 
  • Provision 9: “The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional organizations, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and health policy.” 

As a nurse, you must understand ethical principles because you are in the most honest and ethical field. In addition to these provisions, there are seven moral obligations that you as a nurse must center your care around: 

  • Accountability 
  • Autonomy  
  • Beneficence 
  • Fidelity 
  • Justice 
  • Nonmaleficence 
  • Veracity 

Beneficence Defined 

We have all heard the beneficence meaning “to do good” or to do what is best for the patient.  But what does that mean? To protect your patients, to prevent harmful things from happening to them, to help them stay out of harm’s way, and to provide care that will benefit the patient.  

It is important to always remember how your actions will BENEFIT the patient and not cause HARM. 

Beneficence Examples 

An example of beneficence can be as simple as holding your patient’s hand when you are acting as their support person or just making sure that a patient’s medications are given in a timely manner. Beneficence means to protect the patient from harm such as restraining a patient who might pull out their IV or attempt to walk when they have just been medicated.  

This ethical obligation is basic to who you are as a nurse.  It is why you became a nurse – to CARE for your patients because you want the best for them. 

The Bottom Line

The term “ethical” in nursing means understanding the policies and procedures that govern your practice while at the same time considering the patient by making good judgments and decisions that are good for your patient. When you answer the call light in a timely manner so that the patient can obtain pain medications, this is beneficence. 

When you sit beside the bed of your patient who has just received some disturbing news and hold their hand or hug them because they have no support person, this is beneficence. When you keep the side rails up on an elderly person’s bed who has been known to fall. This is beneficence. 

As a nurse of 20 years, I have been in each of these scenarios. These acts of kindness may seem simple and expected, but you know that you have made a difference by how a patient smiles at you and how it makes you feel. It is an absolute necessity to understand and practice beneficence on your next patient. 

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