Principles of nursing practice

Nurse treating boy

23 / 11 / 2010 10.45am

The Principles of Nursing Practice tell us what all people can expect from nursing practice, whether they are colleagues, patients, or the families or carers of patients.

Nursing is provided by nursing staff, including ward managers (in hospitals) or team members (in the community), specialist nurses, community nurses, health visitors, health care assistants or student nurses.

The principles were developed by the Royal College of Nursing working in partnership with the Department of Health, Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and service user organisations. These principles apply to healthcare assistants, students and registered nurses.

Their are eight principles which describe quality nursing practice. 

  • Nurses and nursing staff treat everyone in their care with dignity and humanity – they understand their individual needs, show compassion and sensitivity, and provide care in a way that respects all people equally.
  • Nurses and nursing staff take responsibility for the care they provide and answer for their own judgments and actions – they carry out these actions in a way that is agreed with their patients, and the families and carers of their patients, and in a way that meets the requirements of their professional bodies and the law.
  • Nurses and nursing staff manage risk, are vigilant about risk, and help to keep everyone safe in the places they receive health care.
  • Nurses and nursing staff provide and promote care that puts people at the centre, involves patients, service users, their families and their carers in decisions and helps them make informed choices about their treatment and care.
  • Nurses and nursing staff are at the heart of the communication process: they assess, record and report on treatment and care, handle information sensitively and confidentially, deal with complaints effectively, and are conscientious in reporting the things they are concerned about.
  • Nurses and nursing staff have up-to-date knowledge and skills, and use these with intelligence, insight and understanding in line with the needs of each individual in their care.
  • Nurses  and nursing staff work closely with their own team and with other professionals, making sure patients’ care and treatment is co-ordinated, is of a high standard and has the best possible outcome.
  • Nurses and nursing staff lead by example, develop themselves and other staff, and influence the way care is given in a manner that is open and responds to individual needs.

Our discussion paper, The role of the nurse  raises the question of how nursing outcomes can be measured and best practice rewarded, identifying that patient experience of care can be difficult to quantify. As the Principles of nursing practice are intended for use by nursing teams for quality improvement, continuing professional development and sharing with patients, employers may find particular value when using them to evaluate nursing care.

The principles are available from the Royal College of Nursing website, along with information on how the principles relate to other publications, including the NMC code, examples of quality measures to verify if care matches the principles and postcards and posters to download.

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