When it comes to the nursing code of ethics (the Code), veracity is one of the seven ethical principles that serves as a foundation and basis for the Code, while linking all six of the other ethical principles together.
Because nurses practice veracity, they’re often ranked as the number one most trusted professional, even above physicians and grade-school teachers.
What is Veracity in Nursing?
In nursing, veracity refers to a nurse’s obligation to tell the truth and is part of accountability as noted in Provision 4.2 of the ANA Code of Ethics.
Veracity also relates to the other six ethical principles that serve as the moral underpinnings for the Code. Here’s how they connect:
To be accountable as a nurse means to take responsibility for your actions and inactions— both professionally and personally. In order to take responsibility for one’s actions, a nurse must be honest and tell the truth.
Veracity, or truth-telling, often applies to a nurse’s personal life as well since many states require nurses to be accountable and self-report their personal actions outside of work such as being convicted of a DUI or DWI.
The principle of autonomy means that patients have the right to make choices about their health care and life, based on their personal values and beliefs.
Even though a nurse may not always agree with their patients’ choices, the nurse is obligated to not interfere with a patient’s right to make their own decisions, regardless of the potential consequences.
As a result, nurses must practice veracity and truthfully inform their patients about the potential outcomes of their choices and actions without trying to unduly influence them.
Nurses demonstrate the principle of beneficence through actions that demonstrate compassion and their desire to do what’s good for their patients.
Examples of beneficence include administering an analgesic to a patient who’s in pain, helping a patient eat who cannot feed themselves, and telling a patient the truth (veracity) when completing patient education or if the patient asks for specific information.
The principle of fidelity refers to nurses being loyal and committed to their patient’s well-being first and foremost above all other interests. This loyalty and commitment are essential for nurses to be able to establish a trusting and caring relationship with their patients.
As a result, fidelity and veracity go hand-in-hand. Patients expect that they can trust nurses to act in their best interest. This includes telling patients the truth at all times and communicating honestly with healthcare team members.
Justice means being impartial and fair. Nurses making impartial medical decisions demonstrate this, whether it relates to limited resources or new treatments regardless of economic status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.
Being fair and impartial with patients also requires that a nurse practice veracity and tell the truth, regardless of whether they agree with the potential outcome or not.
Nonmaleficence means to “do no harm” and is based on the Hippocratic Oath. It promises that a nurse will not cause any injury to their patients, physically or otherwise. This requires that nurses do everything in their power to protect their patients from anything that could harm them physically or in any other way.
For example, nurses are expected to monitor a patient’s vital signs frequently immediately after surgery to identify potential complications such as hemorrhaging or pulmonary complications.
“Doing no harm” to patients also requires a nurse to not purposely withhold information from a patient and to tell patients the truth (veracity) about their medical conditions, treatments, and potential side effects of medications and outcomes of treatments.
Why is Veracity in Nursing Important?
Veracity is absolutely essential to establishing and maintaining a relationship of trust between a nurse and patient. Patients are inherently vulnerable when seeking medical care. Likewise, nurses are privy to a significant amount of medical and personal information about patients as they complete admission documentation and assessments, access the patient’s medical record, and provide nursing care.
Patients depend on nurses to truthfully adhere to the ethical principles in the nursing code of ethics. This includes maintaining strict patient confidentiality and practicing veracity so patients can make informed decisions about their health care, decisions which may have a significant impact on patients’ lives.
Examples of Veracity in Nursing
There are many situations every day where nurses must choose to demonstrate veracity, even though it may be uncomfortable at times. Some examples include:
- Asking a nursing colleague for help due to a lack of experience with a particular task, skill, or procedure.
- Discovering and self-reporting a medication error or other nursing error.
- Telling a competent patient that they’re free to refuse or leave medical care, even when you fear they may suffer harm if they do so.
- Ensuring a patient has provided informed consent for all treatments and procedures before administering these to the patient.
- Explaining to a patient how they may be putting themselves at risk by discharging themselves from the hospital or medical care against medical advice (AMA).
- Telling your nursing supervisor or nurse manager that you don’t have the skills needed for a position you’re being transferred to fill or promoted to.
- Documenting and reporting accurately.
Will You Be Asked About Veracity on the NCLEX?
Yes, you could be asked about veracity on the NCLEX because “Beliefs about people and nursing underlie the NCLEX-RN Test Plan.” However, it’s more likely that you will have to answer questions that test your understanding of how to apply veracity in potential nursing situations rather than simply being asked a direct question about veracity.
For example, the NCLEX-RN test plan includes the subcategory of Management of Care under the Client Needs category of Safe and Effective Care Environment. As part of Management of Care, a person sitting the NCLEX-RN could be given test questions that test their ability to “Recognize ethical dilemmas and take appropriate action” and “Practice in a manner consistent with a code of ethics for nurses”.
History of the Nursing Code of Ethics and Veracity in Nursing
Although the need for a nursing code of ethics was recognized in the mid-1800s as modern nursing became more formalized, it took a backseat to more pressing issues for the newly created American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1896. The ANA’s first priorities were tackling issues such as nursing registration, accreditation of nursing schools, and the well-being of working nurses. Without a formal code of ethics to follow at the time, nurses “used Gretter’s Nightingale Pledge, akin to medicine’s Hippocratic Oath, to guide their practice.”
Eventually, the ANA published the first “suggested” code of ethics for nurses in 1926 which provided formal guidance regarding what ethical behavior should look like for nurses. Then in 1940, the ANA drafted a “Tentative Code” which included many of the same provisions from the 1926 suggested code. But this time, the Code discussed these provisions as they related to a nurse’s relationship with patients, their colleagues, and the profession itself. It also defined nursing as a profession.
In 1968, the ANA revised the Code and developed interpretive statements to help nurses understand how the different provisions and ethical principles such as veracity could be applied to their practice. The previous 17 provisions were also reduced to 10 provisions in this update of the Code.
The nursing code of ethics we have today has been developed by nurses for nurses. It is the gold standard that all nurses use to make decisions and it serves as an ethical guide, regardless of a nurse’s role or where they work. Whether on or off the job, nurses are expected to uphold all seven ethical principles that form the basis of the Code, including veracity.
*This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease.