Legal / Ethical

Protecting The Integrity of Human Dignity in The Care of All Patients

  • Upholding human dignity in nursing is one of three values listed in the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics. 
  • Human dignity in nursing is comprised of respect, privacy, and autonomy while providing patient care. 
  • Protecting a patient’s dignity is the responsibility of nurses, leaders, and organizational policy.  

Peace Ogbuagu

RN, BSN. MSN, CNM, Commander of United States Navy

May 20, 2022
Simmons University

The integrity of human dignity in nursing is an integral aspect of providing care for patients in such a way that by having integrity, healthcare providers maintain strong moral principles by putting the needs of patients first as well as respecting their privacy.  

Nursing is more than delivering care; it involves patient advocacy as well. Because nurses have the most direct interaction with patients, they are in the ideal position to advocate for each one on an individual basis.  

The American Nurses Association (ANA) stresses the importance of patient advocacy in its Code of Ethics and lists three core values that form its basis: preserving human dignity, patient equality, and freedom from suffering. This three-part blog series will address each of these core values in turn. 

What Is Human Dignity In Nursing

What is human dignity in nursing and what does it mean to you? Nurses are so used to seeing patients, taking care of them and knowing about seventy percent of what is going on with a patient (if not more), such that it can be easy to forget that the patient is first an individual with a sense of self-worth and self-respect.  

Human dignity, simply put, is when one believes in their own worth, pride in oneself or a conscious sense of one’s own worth as a human being living a meaningful life that is worthy of respect from others.  

In the healthcare environment, human dignity is more focused on aspects of privacy, respect, and autonomy. A patient’s dignity can be threatened during some aspects of providing certain care such as some kinds of assessments, exams and procedures; patients feel exposed and vulnerable, they’re poked and prodded, they’re questioned about intimate details, they’re subjected to the scrutiny of strangers. 

 This is where advocacy comes in to play a fundamental part in establishing trust, building confidence and gaining adequate compliance throughout the care processes.

human dignity in nursing ethics

How to Uphold Human Dignity in Nursing

Upholding a patient’s human dignity starts with an individual nurse, and goes all the way up the chain with leadership and policy implementation.

Nurse Patient Relationship

How can human dignity be upheld during nurse/patient relationship? This can be done by promoting proper communication, being respectful, and being person-centered.  

Human dignity is an essential aspect of clinical ethics. As such, upholding patient rights such as privacy promotes human dignity.  

Maintaining the patients’ integrity creates healing environments and pleasant feelings that improve patient outcomes. Overtime, throughout my nursing journey, I have realized that one of the significant ethical goals and requirements entails upholding the integrity of human dignity in nursing among all patients.  

Compromising patients’ dignity would result in aggression, anxiety, withdrawal of information that will assist treatment outcomes, failure to follow instructions during examinations. Also, a sense of uncertainty, inability to perform essential tasks, feeling of worthlessness, lack of support from family, health care providers, and friends threaten dignity among patients.  

Most importantly, promoting patient integrity wins their trust for better compliance throughout the treatment process.

Leadership and Policy Implementation

Leaders in the healthcare profession are obligated to maintain the dignity of patients as well as staff members to ensure the organization runs efficiently as individual needs for human dignity will have been met.  

Taking an approach that is humanistic, like respecting the patient’s beliefs, is another way their dignity gets respected. 

The leaders in a healthcare organization can ensure that the policy for confidentiality is in place and followed by all staff. The patient’s right to decide who, when, and if they want to disclose the information should be respected.  

The support and domestic staff should respect patient confidentiality by ensuring that they do not disclose any information they may come across about a patient to any other parties who do not have knowledge of the information.  

Another way the leaders can ensure the dignity of patients is by making sure that the people who have access to the records of the patients, either financial or personal, are only those who need the particular information to fulfill their duties.

Human Dignity in nursing confidentiality

The Bottom Line

Providing single-sex toilet and bathroom facilities, providing space for private phone calls and conversations for the patients, knocking before getting into a patient’s room, allowing patients to consent in situations where an interpreter gets chosen, training staff on issues of dignity and privacy among others are the other ways in which healthcare organizations can ensure that the integrity of human dignity gets maintained in patient care.  

Being honest and respecting the privacy of patients impacts the quality of healthcare provided for the welfare of the patients positively. The needs of the patient have to come first as meeting their needs is the most critical part of healthcare provision. All patients should be respected, and their dignity maintained by ensuring that their privacy gets respected.

Love what you read?
Share our insider knowledge and tips!

Read More