Ethics, culture and nursing practice in Ghana


Dr Noble Donkor, Canadian University College, 5514 College Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta, Canada T4L 2E5; Tel: 403-782-3381 Ext. 4186; Fax: 866-928-9504; E-mail:


DONKOR N.T. & ANDREWS L.D. (2011) Ethics, culture and nursing practice in Ghana. International Nursing Review58, 109–114

Objective:  This paper describes how nurses in Ghana approach ethical problems.

Background:  The International Council of Nurses' (ICN) Code for Nurses (2006) that serves as the model for professional code of ethics worldwide also acknowledges respect for healthy cultural values. Using the ICN's Code and universal ethical principles as a benchmark, a survey was conducted in 2009 to ascertain how nurses in Ghana respond to ethical and cultural issues in their practice.

Methods:  The study was qualitative with 200 participant nurses. Data were obtained through anonymous self-administered questionnaires. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data.

Findings:  Nurses' approaches to ethical problems in Ghana do not always meet expectations of the ICN Code for Nurses. They are also informed by local ethical practices related to the institutional setting and cultural environment in the country. While some cultural values complemented the ICN's Code and universal ethical principles, others conflicted with them.

Nursing implications:  These data can assist nurses to provide culturally competent solutions to ethical dilemmas in their practice. Dynamic communication between nurses and patients/clients, intentional study of local cultural beliefs, and the development of ethics education will improve the conformity between universal ethical standards and local cultural values.