Beneficence in Nursing

Last updated on January 27th, 2024 at 09:28 am

What is Beneficence in Nursing

Beneficence is one of the fundamental principles of nursing ethics that refers to the idea that the nurses’ acts should promote good. It is fundamental to everyday nursing practice, where doing good is defined as constantly prioritizing the needs of the patient.

The use of vaccines, giving patients with health advice and counseling, and providing emergency care are all examples of beneficence.

Beneficence, as well as other ethical principles, are critical for all healthcare workers, particularly nurses, who are frequently presented with ethical difficulties that arise from dealing with people’s lives.

These challenges may potentially coincide with the Code of Ethics or the nurse’s ethical values, which help in making difficult decisions about the lives of their patients. Nurses are advocates for their patients, and they must maintain a healthy balance while providing care.

How to Demonstrate Beneficence in Nursing

Beneficence is the act of showing kindness or mercy, which is always a positive gesture by any health care professional. This principle requires nurses to safeguard their patients from harm by removing and preventing harmful situations and fostering beneficial ones.

The principle encourages healthcare providers to make a conscious effort to ensure that each patient benefits in every circumstance.

Nurses frequently look at patients as a whole and evaluate their long-term consequences. Because beneficence is focused on doing what is best for the affected person, choosing the appropriate means to display beneficence for the affected individual, such as the following, is often a challenge.

  • Remember the needs and desires of the afflicted person for a good life. To some patients, desirable may imply allowing them to die, while to others, it may imply forcing a patient to undergo a difficult procedure in order to extend and improve their life. While most people agree that the patient’s well-being comes first, nurses frequently misinterpret what is good for the patient with what the nurse believes is good for the patient. Nurses must always remember the affected person’s needs and desires for a good life before responding with beneficence in mind.
  • Provide the best nursing care to the patients. Resuscitating a drowning victim, giving pain medication to an injured patient in the emergency room as quickly as possible, or lifting side rails on a patient’s hospital bed to avoid falls are some scenarios that may show beneficence while providing an effective and efficient nursing care.
  • Educate and guide the patient towards optimal health and recovery. Nurses take action and make recommendations that are in the best interests of the patient. However, even if it is objectively the best decision for the patient’s health, beneficence should never include coercion or manipulation of the patient into making a decision against their principles. Nurses must make every attempt to educate patients about better treatment options, especially if the patient refuses treatments.
  • Always choose to do good especially when a patient’s autonomy is compromised. Nurses must constantly keep the patient’s health in mind when the patient is unable to decide or make sound judgments, such as in cases of mental impairment, underage, or unconsciousness. When a patient’s autonomy is compromised, the nursing principle of beneficence must be followed.

Beneficence in the Healthcare Setting

Patients anticipate nurses to treat them with kindness and compassion. Individuals would find it difficult to be treated by healthcare professionals without this level of trust, especially because such treatment typically involves unpleasant, painful, or even life-threatening interventions.

Practicing beneficence requires nurses to make a conscious decision to act compassionately, which includes going above and beyond the basic standards of care considering the patient’s feelings and needs. It also necessitates empathic communication with the patient on what will transpire and why the intervention is important.

Practicing beneficence in healthcare settings can be complicated. Nurses must occasionally convey bad news, but they do not have to be harsh; even a modest act of kindness will be remembered.

Active beneficence, for instance, could be as straightforward as holding a patient’s hand during a painful surgery or ensuring that a patient receives proper post-discharge care. The ultimate test of beneficence is consistently treating patients with compassion, even when nurses are under pressure.

On a daily basis, an effort is required to achieve this goal, as nurses are frequently emotionally and physically drained at the end of the day and feel unable to provide any more. Nonetheless, the next patient expects the same level of compassion as the last one.

Autonomy vs. Beneficence

The first three provisions of the Code of Ethics for Nurses address the nurse-patient relationship wherein the nurse’s duty in defending patients’ rights and best interests are expressly addressed.

Patient autonomy, or the right of patients to make decisions about their own treatment based on their own personal or cultural views and values, is a core nursing principle. The right to refuse medications, treatments, or operations is included in this. In rare circumstances, a patient’s right to autonomy may be in direct conflict with beneficence, or what nurses and other health care personnel believe is best for the patient.

In the field of nursing, autonomy and beneficence are two essential ethical principles that may contradict. The nurse’s job is to establish a balance between the two through clear communication, providing information with the patient, and negotiating.

These scenarios can bring not only ethical or moral concerns but also legal ones if improperly handled. Patient autonomy is a legal right everywhere around the world, not just a philosophical or ethical consideration. In many circumstances, legal precedents have prioritized patient autonomy over healthcare professional beneficence, making patient autonomy the most important factor impacting patients’ rights.

The only time patient autonomy is not favored is when the patient is a minor or lacks the capacity to make decisions. When a patient’s intentions conflict with medical advice, nurses and other health care personnel should make every attempt to teach the patient about the consequences of their actions, but eventually, uphold the patient’s preferences.

How to Reinforce Beneficence among Nurses

A nurse supervisor should strive to create a caring environment in the clinical area, not only in the spirit of professionalism, but also to foster a strong bond in the nursing team.

While no one can ensure that all nurses will practice beneficence actively and at all times, a nurse supervisor can attempt to encourage a culture that encourages beneficence. The following is a list of how to reinforce beneficence among nurses, improve their morale, and retain them rather than paying the high cost of repeated recruitment and rehiring.

  1. Treat the nurses with compassion. The way people are treated in the workplace can go a long way toward fostering a compassionate culture. When patients get active beneficence but nurses do not, a compassion deficit might develop. Nurses are receiving the message that they are unimportant in the organization and that they can be replaced at any time. Nurses will be more motivated to go above and beyond the minimum criteria in patient care if they are treated with genuine compassion.
  2. Strengthen the nurse’s dignity and potential. As a nursing supervisor, the actions and attitude can assist to avoid having a negative impact on the organization. Nurses, for example, should be publicly complimented for their work rather than simply assumed to be doing their job properly. If corrections are necessary, they should be made privately and constructively. It is possible to promote a culture of compassion and beneficence by treating nurses with respect and appreciating their work.
  3. Supervise the nurses with utmost respect. This means that a nurse supervisor’s influence must be used to guarantee that vital work is completed in a way that fosters self-esteem and shows respect for nurses. For instance, before making a decision, a nurse supervisor should seek out information and suggestions from the staff. While a nurse supervisor is not required to use every suggestion, asking and considering other nurses’ thoughts is a sign of respect. Respect is also demonstrated through providing direction to employees rather than issuing orders.
  4. Make frequent self-evaluations. Last but not least, nurses must consider how to be good stewards of themselves. Nurses can improve their strengths and work on their inadequacies by conducting frequent self-evaluations. Nurses must be willing to accept responsibility for their errors and apologize when appropriate. As an ideal nurse, one should consider themselves a perpetual learner who is willing to try new things. These activities benefit not only the nurse but also help the organization. Nurses will have more energy to give the kind of leadership that promotes a culture of active beneficence rather than exceptionalism.

Examples of Beneficence in Nursing

The principle of beneficence can be the simplest ethical value but it can also be presented in tough and challenging situations in the clinical area. Nurses can practice the beneficence principle in several circumstances, including but not limited to the following.

Examples of Beneficence in Nursing 1

A patient who underwent surgery three days prior must ambulate in order to promote faster wound healing and adequate blood circulation. Even before the planned nursing activity, the patient expressed his desire to avoid ambulating and instead spend the entire day in bed

. Using the principle of beneficence, the nurse decided that, despite the patient’s concerns, the patient should try to ambulate in the hallway. When faced with having to choose between recognizing the patient’s right to self-determination and the concept of beneficence, the nurse encountered ethical conflicts.

Instead of enabling the patient to exhibit autonomy, the nurse acted in a way that he considered was in the best interests of the patient.

Examples of Beneficence in Nursing 2

Mark, a 35-year-old businessman, has been diagnosed with a progressive brain disease that he inherited from his late mother and is marked by progressive nerve cell degeneration in the brain.

The duration between the onset of sickness and death is typically 10 to 30 years, while Mark’s life expectancy is only 10 years. Mark became depressed after experiencing uncontrolled twitching, spasms, and memory loss, and even tried suicide by swallowing all of his medications.

He was later discovered unconscious in his room and brought to a local hospital facility’s emergency room. The assigned nurse recovered a letter in his coat pocket detailing his actions and his unwillingness to accept any medical support.

The nurse understands that beneficence is both a moral obligation to do what is best for the patient and a means to improve and deliver the maximum possible safety and quality of care.

In this scenario, the ethical dilemma is how to treat and care for a patient who has refused further medical treatment. Although the patient has the right to decline treatments, his decision-making ability is called into doubt in the case of attempted suicide.

As a result, the nurse continued to treat the patient’s drug overdose with proper medications. When recovered, the patient will have the opportunity to discuss his preferences regarding his chronic disease at a later date, as well as treat any underlying depression that may have contributed to his condition.

Examples of Beneficence in Nursing 3

Mary, a 52-year-old patient, has been in the hospital for several weeks owing to a leg injury she sustained after falling down the stairs. She underwent successful surgery and was placed in a cast.

Mary’s physical condition is improving every day, but her emotional state is deteriorating due to a lack of support from family and friends, based on the observation of the nurse caring for her. Mary seldom gets visitors, which makes her depressed.

By calling Mary’s significant others and encouraging them to visit her frequently, the nurse demonstrated the ethical concept of beneficence. Aside from checking on Mary frequently and keeping the side rails up to prevent her from falling, the nurse made an extra effort to communicate with her and brighten her spirits. The nurse also requests from the attending physician that Mary be placed in a wheelchair and taken her outside for some fresh air.

Examples of Beneficence in Nursing 4

Mr. Smith is a 59-year-old patient with advanced colon cancer who is being cared for by a nursing team in a general hospital’s oncology department. Mr. Smith was diagnosed with colon cancer five years ago, but at the time, he declined medical and surgical treatment.

During that five-year time, he preferred to pursue alternative treatment and did not follow up with the oncologist. Mr. Smith is currently suffering from anemia and ascites.

The cancer had metastasized to other vital organs after many diagnostic tests over a period of time. Mr. Smith was admitted multiple times over the course of three months for various reasons, and on the last hospitalization, he was told that he might only have 10 to 12 months left to live after a colonoscopy revealed further substantial tumor growth. Further surgical or medical intervention was considered to be inappropriate in this case, and a palliative care regimen was recommended.

Mr. Smith approached one of the nurses and told her that he was planning to commit suicide and that the nurse was not to tell anyone about it.

The nurse chose beneficence in Mr. Smith’s case by sharing information about the attempted suicide with other healthcare practitioners.

The nursing team strictly adhered to the hospital’s self-harm and suicide protocol, preserved effective therapeutic communication, recognized the contributing factors to the patient’s suicide attempt, provided appropriate nursing intervention to address these risk factors, and teamed up with other health care professionals to ensure the best possible care.

The patient was transferred to a palliative care facility with no evidence of a suicide attempt or other self-harm tendencies, and he died peacefully 90 days after being discharged, surrounded by his family and friends.


Nurses have a duty to avoid mistreatment, reduce harm, and foster good toward patients, which all points to the nursing ethical principle of beneficence. Nurses display beneficence by balancing the patient’s benefits against the risks.

Beneficence includes helping patients with activities they are unable to complete on their own, ensuring side rails up for fall prevention, and administering drugs in a timely and efficient manner.

Nurses should be aware of and acknowledge their own integrity and moral character, as well as the Code of Ethics that governs their profession.

These essential ethical principles should be understood by nurses at a basic level. The nursing profession must remain committed to patient care while advocating for patient rights to self-identify resources and cultural standards.

Although challenging, ethical issues in nursing constitute a true integration of the art of patient care and nurses have a responsibility to uphold the highest ethical standards for themselves, their profession, and their patients. It is critical to advocate for patient care, patient rights, and ethical practice considerations beginning in nursing school and continuing throughout a nurse’s career.

Most people choose health care as a career because they want to help others, and part of that job includes looking for ways to make a patient’s treatment experience better, safer, and more successful.

Even the simplest improvement can have a significant impact on a patient’s well-being. The challenge with this concept is determining what “good” means to each patient, as nurses must first study and evaluate each patient’s individual interests, needs, and experiences before acting with beneficence in mind.

Knowing a patient’s culture, religious views, previous experiences, and likes and dislikes might help nurses figure out what’s best for them.

Nursing References

Ackley, B. J., Ladwig, G. B., Makic, M. B., Martinez-Kratz, M. R., & Zanotti, M. (2020). Nursing diagnoses handbook: An evidence-based guide to planning care. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.  Buy on Amazon

Gulanick, M., & Myers, J. L. (2022). Nursing care plans: Diagnoses, interventions, & outcomes. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier. Buy on Amazon

Ignatavicius, D. D., Workman, M. L., Rebar, C. R., & Heimgartner, N. M. (2020). Medical-surgical nursing: Concepts for interprofessional collaborative care. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.  Buy on Amazon

Silvestri, L. A. (2020). Saunders comprehensive review for the NCLEX-RN examination. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.  Buy on Amazon


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The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

This information is intended to be nursing education and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.

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Anna Curran. RN, BSN, PHN

Anna Curran. RN-BC, BSN, PHN, CMSRN I am a Critical Care ER nurse. I have been in this field for over 30 years. I also began teaching BSN and LVN students and found that by writing additional study guides helped their knowledge base, especially when it was time to take the NCLEX examinations.

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