Leading Voice for Nursing Education & Nation’s Largest Association of Nurses Team Up to Offer New Course on Ethics

Leading Voice for Nursing Education & Nation’s Largest Association of Nurses Team Up to Offer New Course on Ethics

Ethics in Nursing Education: Tools for Cultivating Ethical Competence in Learners

Washington, DC — The National League for Nursing and the American Nurses Association, two of the nation’s leading nursing professional associations, have joined forces to offer Ethics in Nursing Education: Tools for Cultivating Ethical Competence in Learners. This is a new, groundbreaking initiative for nurse educators across the spectrum of higher education that focuses on how to best incorporate ethics into the nursing curriculum.

As nurses today encounter an increasingly diverse population of patients under their care and a diversity of backgrounds among their health care colleagues, awareness of multiple perspectives and cultivating a moral sensibility is more vital than ever. In any health care setting, a nurse’s decision to provide culturally competent care and health care services—or a refusal or failure to provide care—will undoubtedly have consequences; some anticipated, some not. Understanding the implications of those decisions is crucial to advance a culturally sensitive, ethical approach to caregiving to maximize health outcomes.

The National League for Nursing, the leading association of nurse educators, and the American Nurses Association, the nation’s largest nursing association, developed the course as an innovative learning tool. The course reflects education and accreditation standards as well as the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements, and the state of nursing in current health care delivery systems.

The discipline of ethics, as presented here in eight sessions, uses cognitive research developer James Rest’s respected multi-step model for ethical decision-making to explore implications for scholarly research, administration, and nursing practice. Designed for nurse educators working in academic settings, the course features instruction from the League and ANA professionals with expertise in ethics in nursing education, diversity and inclusion, social determinants of health, and the intersection of ethics and law.

“Ethics in Nursing Education will equip nurse educators with the essential skills to prepare a more principled and effective nursing workforce for the 21st century,” said NLN Chair Patricia Sharpnack, DNP, RN, CNE, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN, dean and Strawbridge Professor at the Breen School of Nursing and Health Professions at Ursuline College in Ohio. “As part of this process, it will be important for participants to explore their personal perceptions and understanding of professional responsibilities to effectively impart the parameters of ethical thinking and moral behavior to the next generation of nurses.”

“This latest collaboration between the NLN and the ANA speaks to the heart of what we in nursing education promote and envision as key to a seamless transition to practice for nursing school graduates,” said NLN President and CEO Beverly Malone, PhD, RN, FAAN. “For that transition to succeed, it is imperative for the National League for Nursing and the ANA to focus on the ways that education informs practice. Ethics is a natural point of intersection, as nursing students look to their educators and mentors for guidance on how best to make ethical decisions to deliver safe, quality care to the patients they serve.”

“This partnership is especially critical today, as the nursing profession faces a number of ethical challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of ethical decision-making in nursing, from ensuring that patients receive the care they need to protecting the health and safety of health care workers,” said acting ANA Enterprise CEO Debbie Hatmaker, PhD, RN, FAAN.

“This is why the partnership between ANA and the NLN is so crucial. By working together, we can ensure that the nursing profession continues to uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct, and that our nursing students are prepared to enter the profession with the knowledge and skills they need to provide the highest quality of care to their patients,” said ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN.

The eight session topics and descriptions include:

  • Session 1Forging a New Collaboration and the Social and Structural Determinants of Health, Structural Racism & Health Equity: Meet with the ANA Enterprise CEO and President and CEO of the NLN to hear their vision of our collaborative future. Explore the how and the why of these sessions focused on enabling you to increase your comfort and skill by integrating ethics seamlessly into your curricula. Supporting nurse educators in broadening their understanding of structural and social determinants of health and their relationship to health equity allows educators to foster deep understanding in their learners. This session will explore race, racism and applications that range from personal to systemic to build a shared vocabulary in the discussions of health equity. 
  • Session 2 – Setting the Stage: Outlining the Territory of Nursing Ethics: As educators, we are challenged to weave ethics into our courses to reflect education and accreditation standards, our Code of Ethics, and the current state of nursing in our health care system. This session will explore the taxonomies and labels we use in nursing ethics, provide rationale for the intentional inclusion of ethics content across the curriculum using Rest’s four-component model as a framework, and set the stage for the faculty training embedded in each session of this workshop. Context for nursing practice includes micro and macro environment of health care, which engages legal and policy dimensions and the social and structural determinants of health. 
  • Session 3 – Moral Sensitivity: Awareness of My Responsibility Recognizing an Issue: The process of moral sensitivity is dependent on nurses’ awareness and identification of ethical content in everyday practice. Development of moral sensitivity requires perspective-taking skills and the ability to consider the impact of nurses’ action or inaction. This session will start by exploring how we, as nurse educators, can expand our own understanding of perception and professional responsibilities. Then we will bridge to consider how to embed meaningful activities in your courses, such as facilitated discussion and role play that are designed to increase awareness and cultivate moral sensitivity in your students.
  • Session 4 – Moral Judgment and Reasoning: Using Clinical Judgment and Moral Reasoning to Address an Issue: Moral judgment, which directly informs clinical judgment, requires knowledge of ethical principles, situational and contextual awareness, a person- or population-centered focus, and intentionality. The development of clinical and moral judgment is not an event – it is a process that is fostered by introducing structured ways of thinking (models), scenarios that require action, and reflection. This session will focus on how to use moral decision-making models, simulation, and civil discourse to support the development of moral judgment and reasoning skills in your students. 
  • Session 5 – Moral Motivation and Moral Focus: Integrating the Moral Self with Professional Expectations: The integration of personal and professional values, the prioritization of values, and maintaining responsibility for our actions requires balancing personal risk with professional responsibility. As nurse educators, we are positioned to set the climate in the didactic and clinical settings with students and provide a safe and brave space for the exploration of differing values and the nuances inherent in moral focus. This session will identify how to leverage your slides and frame content to acknowledge inequities and disparities in the context of the social and structural determinants of health, discuss our language and the need for accuracy and terms that foster belonging, and explore students’ creative sides in using visual thinking strategies to increase students’ moral motivation and focus. 
  • Session 6 – Moral Character: Acting as a Moral Agent – Implementing the Best Action: Ethical comportment requires more than consideration – it requires action. Goal identification, implementation and evaluation of a plan, consideration of habits, and the articulation of professional identity formation are facets of moral character. This session will consider videos, articles and professional development in the context of developing students as moral agents who represent the profession of nursing. 
  • Session 7 – Tying Together the Ethical Landscape: When, Where, and How to Begin: Balancing competence and confidence in our students and in ourselves remains a challenge. This workshop was designed to provide you with space to consider some concrete exemplars of how to integrate ethics and moral development in your courses. This specific session will review the evolving case that we presented in the four middle sessions and articulate how to begin and thrive as an advocate and mentor for your students on their journey of professional moral development. Policy and ethics are inextricably intertwined and can affect both patient care and ethical decisions. This session will reinforce the relationship between ethics, social and structural determinants of health, and policy. 
  • Session 8 – The Venn Diagram of Legal and Ethical: If something is ethical, then isn’t it legal? Or if something is legal, isn’t it also ethical?  The interaction between law and ethics can present conflicts at times. This session, presented by two nurse-attorneys, focuses on the interaction between ethics and law and explores the issues that evolve when commonly held ethical principles are in direct conflict with the law, and vice versa.

Each session takes about an hour. The cost of the entire on-demand course is $249. Participants also earn 0.8 continuing education units (CEUs) for completion of the course. To access the course, visit NLN.org.


About the National League for Nursing

Dedicated to excellence in nursing, the National League for Nursing is the leading organization for nurse faculty and leaders in nursing education. The NLN offers professional development, networking opportunities, testing services, nursing research grants, and public policy initiatives to its nearly 45,000 individual and 1,000 institutional members, comprising nursing education programs across the spectrum of higher education and health care organizations. Learn more at NLN.org.


January 23, 2024


Michael Keaton, Deputy Chief Communications Officer