Rules and Regulations Every Nurse Needs to Know

Nurse Assisting PatientNurses must follow rules and regulations to ensure quality care for patients

Ethics are important in every career, regardless of the specific field a person may work in. It is just as important for elementary school teachers to follow rules in the classroom as it is for lawyers to pay close attention to regulations in the courtroom. The same applies for nurses and the health care industry. Because following these rules and regulations ensures patient safety, it also creates an environment for successful nursing. Being aware of the expectations placed upon practicing nurses gives you the opportunity to care for patients in the best way possible while also addressing important legal concerns like patient confidentiality and autonomy.

We’ve compiled the following list so that you have a clear idea of the rules and regulations associated with a successful nursing career.

Nurse Practice Act

Being a nurse requires specialized knowledge and skills, along with the ability to make independent decisions. The practice of nursing can be different depending on the types of patients you work with on a particular day—methods vary by setting, type of client, disease and care approach. The result of this environment is that there is risk associated with the work that nurses do. Because nursing poses a risk of harm to patients if practiced by those who are unprepared or incompetent, the state you work in has rules and regulations to protect the public from harm. These laws regulate nursing practice and qualifications; every state has a nurse practice act (NPA), and each NPA provides the guidelines for the work nurses do in that particular state. The various state NPAs also have a board of nursing (BON) that develops administrative rules and regulations to make laws more specific and effective.

Although NPAs vary by state, they all include:

  • Authority, power and composition of a board of nursing
  • Standards and scope of nursing practice
  • Education program standards
  • Grounds for disciplinary action and other violation
  • Requirements for licensure
  • Types of titles and licenses

All nurses should be familiar with their state’s NPA because it provides a safe framework within which to work and protects patients from unprofessional and unsafe nursing practice. The nursing profession can only be effective and function properly if nurses fully understand and follow the laws regulating the practice in their state.

For more information about Ohio’s NPA, click here.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing

Boards of nursing are state government agencies responsible for regulating nursing practice and are also the collective voice of nursing regulation in the U.S. The mission of the board of nursing is to protect the public by doing the following:

  • Developing the NCLEX-RN, NCLEX-PN, NNAAP and MACE examinations
  • Monitoring trends in public policy, nursing practice and education
  • Promoting uniformity in practice
  • Distributing data about the licensure of nurses
  • Researching nursing practice issues
  • Being a forum for information exchange
  • Providing opportunities for collaboration among its members

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) ensures that only licensed, skilled nurses practice in health care settings. Visit their website at for updates on legislative initiatives and annual reports on the practice of nursing in the U.S.

Ethics and Pain Management

Pain management  is one of the most potentially problematic areas of nursing ethics. The best method for pain management in hospitalized patients is a complex matter; although pain research has led to a more complete understanding of how to respond to patients’ pain needs, every patient is different. It is often the case that practitioner bias affects pain assessment. Pain management is subjective, and nurses run the risk of miscalculating treatment. A large amount of regulation and research has gone into this particular area of nursing ethics because bias and emotion can interfere with pain assessment and treatment. In addition to minimizing harm and protecting vulnerable patients, decisions involving pain management must consider a patient’s preferences and potential benefits. This ethical approach to pain management ensures that nurses can be confident and successful in treating patients.

Nursing at NDC

Having a clear understanding of the rules, regulations and ethics involved in nursing practice is essential for nurses who are continuing their education. The online RN to BSN program at NDC is based on knowledge that includes both the science and art of nursing. This liberal arts approach gives our students a foundation of ethics that helps them succeed in their nursing careers. For more information on NDC’s nursing program, visit our online programs page.