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Code of Conduct for Nurses

The College of Nurses of Ontario’s Code of Conduct sets the standard of practice all nurses are accountable to.

The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) has published a new Code of Conduct (Code) for the nursing profession. The Code explains to the public the behaviour and conduct to expect from a nurse when receiving care. It also informs nurses of the standard of practice they are professionally accountable to. 

The accountabilities in the Code reflect the fundamental values and principles at the core of nursing. While CNO’s current practice standards provide more detailed guidance for nursing practice, the Code will act as an overarching standard. It will outline the expectations of professional behaviour and conduct for all nurses (Registered Nurses, Registered Practical Nurses and Nurse Practitioners), regardless of their role, job description or practice setting. 

Code of Conduct for Nurses

View the Code of Conduct

 Translated versions of the Code can be found in resources for the public.

CNO’s Code of Conduct was developed through a rigorous process of research, analysis and consultations. Modelled after the Nursing Council of New Zealand’s Code of Conduct for Nurses (2012), we conducted an in-depth literature review and reviewed the most current information about what patients and the public expect of nurses. 

We also consulted and received extensive feedback from the public, nurses, nurse educators, nurse employers, nursing associations, nursing unions and government. 

As well, we analyzed commonly breached practice standards and also reviewed other documents such as the Ontario Human Rights Code and Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report recommendations. 

The evidence obtained from this research informed the development of the Code and align with our responsibility to protect the public.

The Code consists of six principles:

  1. Nurses respect the dignity of patients and treat them as individuals
  2. Nurses work together to promote patient well-being
  3. Nurses maintain patients’ trust by providing safe and competent care
  4. Nurses work respectfully with colleagues to best meet patients’ needs
  5. Nurses act with integrity to maintain patients’ trust
  6. Nurses maintain public confidence in the nursing profession 

Each principle is supported by a set of statements. These principles and statements define the values and principles nurses use to fulfil their professional obligations.

The Code of Conduct is a standard of practice the public can use if they have questions about nurses’ responsibilities when providing care. Nurses are accountable to these standards of practice. 

The Code is also useful for others who have responsibilities within the nursing profession, including the following: 

  • Employers can uphold the standards of the Code within their organizations and inform patients or their family members of what to expect of their nurses. 
  • Educators can also integrate the Code’s principles within their education programs to help students understand what it means to be a nurse registered with CNO. 
  • Nursing students can use the Code to learn more about their future nursing accountabilities.

Our Code of Conduct puts you, the patient, at the centre of nursing care. It sets out the professional standards you should expect from your nurse. If you are unhappy about the care you or someone else has received from a nurse, it is best to discuss your concerns directly with the nurse or their employer. For example, the manager or administrator of a hospital or long-term care home. 

If you wish to make a formal complaint to CNO, read our Make a Complaint web page to learn more about how to proceed. 

We also have a guide, Addressing Complaints at the College of Nurses of Ontario, containing important information about the complaints processes. 

Visit What is CNO? to learn more about the College of Nurses of Ontario.

Page last reviewed June 13, 2019