Ethical Knowing

Contributors: Deborah Lindell and Peggy Chinn
Updated October 27, 2022

Blogs related to ethical knowing

Ethical knowing is the moral component of nursing.  While nurses need to understand common ethical codes considered in the broad field of healthcare, understanding what ought to be done that is right and just in any particular nursing care situation requires a specific understanding of the ethics of relationships in each particular situation.  These situations can involve frontline RNs and APRNs providing direct patient care or nurses in indirect nursing roles such as administration, leadership, education, policy development, and research.  Additionally, ethical issues can arise across the spectrum of healthcare settings from critical care to hospice to home care. 

Several documents provide frameworks for nurses’ decision-making regarding ethical practice. Examples include the International Council of Nurses’ The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses (2021) and The American Nurses Association’s Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements (The Code) (2015). The ANA Code is described as “providing a guide for carrying out nursing responsibilities in a manner consistent with quality in nursing care and the ethical obligations of the profession” (ANA). Additional resources would be the journal Nursing Ethics and textbooks of nursing ethics

General codes, such as those by the ANA and ICN,  can be important for categories of situations, but nurses are responsible to do what is right for a particular situation, given the needs and preferences of the people in the situation. Nurses who practice through a lens of ethical knowing apply the principles of ethics to a specific situation by asking the questions: Is this right? and Is this responsible? In doing so, they demonstrate moral and ethical comportment. 


American Nurses Association. The Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements  (freely available for  ANA members, non-members and the public). blogs related to ethical knowing:

Chinn, Peggy L., Kramer, Maeona K., & Sitzman, K. (2022). Knowledge Development in Nursing: Theory and Process (11th ed.). Elsevier.

Fowler, Marsha Diane Mary. (2015). Guide to the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements: Development, Interpretation, and Application. American Nurses Association. 

Fowler PhD MDiv MS, Marsha, Sheryl Reimer Kirkham, Rn, Rick Sawatzky Phd, Elizabeth Johnston Taylor Phd. (2011). Religion, Religious Ethics and Nursing. Springer Publishing Company. 

International Council of Nursing (2021) ICN’s Code of Ethics for Nurses.  PDF freely available at 

Nursing Ethics. Website