Introduction to Professional Ethics

Study material for the master students

Ethical challenges in education and the practical training period

Since working in health and social care sector has its principles of ethics, the development of students’ ethical awareness is crucial. Nursing curricula indicate that the codes of ethics are seen as an essential content of professional ethics education in their aim at equipping nurses with high ethical standards.

Numminen et al. (2009a) found out that Finnish nursing students’ perception of the extent of the teaching of the codes was quite positive and the codes focused on the nurse as an individual and the nurse’s relationship with the patient. Numminen et al. showed that less emphasis was put on issues in which nursing was discussed as a profession or in wider social contexts.

One interesting result was that educators regarded teaching of ethics as difficult, and that the use of teaching and evaluation methods had been too limited for them to  be carried out in students’ everyday study environments. Integrated teaching has been suggested by many researchers as the best way to teach codes of ethics and professional ethics in general.

The study results of Brunou (2009) strengthen the suggestion that the students encounter ethical dilemmas most frequently during their practical training in health care, especially during training in psychiatric nursing. Numminen et al. (2009b) suggest that sticking to traditional methods perhaps feels like a safe option, particularly in integrated teaching, in which most of the educators are not professionals in ethics.

Numminen et al. (2009b) argue that the teaching methods that strengthen students’ ethical awareness, rational ethical thinking and understanding of the role of emotions and personal characteristics in moral action are regarded as most effective. They speculated that the educators might find it useful to reconsider the implementation of ethics teaching so that all students could be activated to become interested in and aware of the importance of ethics in their future work.


Numminen, O., Leino-Kilpi, H. van der Arend, A. & Katajisto, J. 2009a. Nursing students and teaching of codes of ethics: an empirical research study. International Nursing Review 56: 483-490.

Numminen, O., van der Arend, A. & Leino-Kilpi, H. 2009b. Nurse educators’ and nursing students’ perspectives on teaching codes of ethics. Nursing Ethics, 16 (1): 69-82.

Brunou, S. 2009. Sairaanhoitajaopiskelijoiden ohjattujen käytännön harjoittelujen aikana ilmenneet eettiset ongelmat. (Ethical problems occurring during the practical training period of Finnish nursing students). Annales Universitatis Turkuensis, Doctoral dissertation, University of Turku.