Nursing's Code of Ethics, Social Ethics, and Social Policy

Hastings Center Report 46 (S1):9-12 (2016)
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Abstract

Modern American nursing arose during the Civil War and subsequently adopted the Nightingale educational model in the 1870s. By 1889, the journal Trained Nurse and Hospital Review had been established. It published a six‐part series on ethics in nursing. With the establishment of the American Nurses Association in 1893, the articles of incorporation gave the organization its first charge: “to establish and maintain a code of ethics.” While the rich and enduring tradition of nursing's ethics has been concerned about individual patients and their relational nexus, nursing ethics has from the beginning been a social ethics, intimately concerned both for the shape of society and for social change. This concern has been for health, conceived broadly and not focused specifically on disease and its treatment, but including the social causes of disease. Nightingale herself was an ardent social reformer, instituting a wide range of types of army sanitation reform, sanitation reform in India, and hospital and nursing reform. Despite her gender, her wealth and privilege granted her access to men in power who furthered her policy and reform agenda. From the start, then, modern nursing was imbued with a social reformist bias.

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