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Two nurses, one in scrubs, discuss a patient's chart earnestly, embodying the principle of veracity in nursing through honest communication in a clinic waiting area.

What Is Veracity in Nursing?

3 min readFebruary, 09 2024

Veracity, also known as truth-telling, is one of the seven ethical principles that govern nursing. It requires nurses to tell their patients (or the patient's surrogate decision-maker) the objective truth. Practicing veracity means nurses can’t withhold or misrepresent any relevant information concerning their patient's diagnosis or treatment.

Though the ethical principle of veracity is simple in theory, it can sometimes be challenging to uphold — but it's also one of the most essential principles.

Examples of Veracity in Nursing

Nurses typically encounter dozens of opportunities to practice veracity during a single shift. It’s second nature for many, but others may need to hone this skill. Let’s look at areas where nursing veracity is critical.

Nurse-Patient Veracity

Veracity requires nurses to provide honest and accurate information, even if the news is difficult for patients to hear. Being direct empowers patients to make sound decisions that best fit their personal, cultural, and moral needs.

How information gets delivered may vary based on the individual. Some patients appreciate a straightforward approach, while others may respond better to more subtle methods. And each patient interprets similar news differently, so nurses must prepare to offer a range of responses. Remember, you should deliver life-altering information with compassion, professionalism, and sensitivity.

Scenarios in which veracity is critical include the following:

  • Be honest about a treatment’s side effects but avoid alarming patients or discouraging them from adhering to their care plan.
  • Prepare to answer difficult questions. Review methods like the SPIKES protocol to anticipate and console emotional patients.
  • Own up and apologize for any mistakes made during the treatment process.
  • Explain data from a patient's charts or records in plain, simple language.

Nursing Veracity Among Colleagues

Veracity is equally important when dealing with peers and team members. Nurses should feel empowered to be open and honest with their colleagues. Examples include:

  • Being upfront about abilities and expertise to prevent avoidable errors or resentment.
  • Admitting to mistakes, which fosters a culture of forgiveness and understanding.
  • Offering honest feedback to colleagues.
  • Providing timely and accurate documentation during shift changes. A patient’s safety depends on the incoming nurse having up-to-date information on their status

Why Veracity in Nursing Matters

Because compassion is integral to care, many nurses struggle to share difficult news with their patients. But omitting or miscommunicating the truth diminishes trust and can impact a patient's well-being. A nurse’s ethical duty is to be forthright so patients and their loved ones can make informed decisions about their treatment and care options.

Nurse-Patient Transparency Fosters Strong Relationships

Patients may withhold information for various reasons, such as fear of judgment or not wanting to be perceived as difficult. Nurses can help alleviate their anxiety through compassion and nonjudgment. By listening without bias and reassuring them of confidentiality, patients are more likely to share.

Veracity Promotes Patient Accountability

To become self-sufficient, a patient needs to understand all the facts about their condition to make informed decisions about their best path forward. Suppose someone has been diagnosed with hypertension but isn’t following the prescribed medication and lifestyle recommendations. Openly discuss the risks and complications using real-life scenarios. Then encourage them to take charge of their health and support them throughout the process.

Honesty Creates a Robust Team Culture

Two nurses in scrubs have a serious conversation on a park bench, one gesturing while holding a coffee cup, the other listens intently. Trees provide a peaceful backdrop.

Veracity in nursing involves building the respect and trust essential for a healthy and cohesive team. Nurses should feel empowered to speak up when they notice a potential error, safety risk, or issue with a colleague. Suppose a team member senses a peer is overwhelmed. Rather than ignoring it, showing compassion and support could lead other team members to express their feelings openly and support one another.

Veracity is an ethical responsibility nurses owe to their patients and team members. Upholding this principle is essential to delivering high-quality, patient-centered care and outcomes. Learn more about nursing ethics and human rights here.


Images sourced from Getty Images

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