This year marks the 21st consecutive year that nurses have been voted the most honest and ethical profession in an annual Gallup poll. 79% of US adults voted that nurses had “high” or “very high” honest and ethical standards, ranking higher than 17 other professions. In sharp contrast, only 9% of Americans polled voted that members of Congress had “high” or “very” high honest and ethical standards. It is clear that nurses are highly regarded by the American public, not only for our skill, knowledge, and expertise, but also for our ethics and honesty. Our profession is founded on ethical standards that extend well beyond benevolence and non-maleficence, and are summarized in the Code of Ethics, published by the American Nurses Association. The latest edition with interpretive statements was released in 2015 and covers nine provisions, including dignity, rights of patients, patients as research participants, privacy, and health as a human right, among others. Provision 9 elaborates on a significant issue that is of crucial importance in our current culture: Social justice.
Provision 9 states:
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.
Provision 9 goes on to elaborate, in section 9.3, “Integrating Social Justice”: [it is] nursing’s professional responsibility to address unjust systems and structures, modeling the profession’s commitment to social justice and health . . .
Social justice is advocacy—advocacy for equal rights and treatment, equitable distribution and access to resources, protection of human rights, and unbiased decision-making. This seems simple and a given in healthcare, but social justice takes work and our focused attention. In order to make changes for all marginalized peoples – Black and Brown communities, indigenous peoples, LGTBQ+, differently abled, and all groups and communities that experience discrimination and exclusion – we have to engage in social justice work.
Here are some practical ways nurses can get involved in social justice:
- Self-reflect on personal biases that may impact the way you deliver care
- Speak up when you see or hear biased/prejudicial language or behavior
- Be aware of legislation that affects healthcare or limits the rights of individuals
- Join an organizational or community board to ensure that equitable decisions are made
- Engage in a demonstration/protest to advocate for social justice
- Become informed about social justice issues
Nurses as holistic caregivers are concerned with every aspect of an individual’s wellbeing, not just their physical health. Combined with the immense public trust in the nursing profession, nurses are perfectly positioned to positively impact issues related to social justice.
ANA Code of Ethics
Timmons, T. (2021, May 08). Social justice, ethics, and the nursing profession. Wolters Kluwer. https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/expert-insights/social-justice-ethics-nursing-profession