Ethics for Psychiatric Nursing

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
PHIL 3125
Semester Length
15 Weeks
Max Class Size
35 (classroom), 20 (online)
Method(s) Of Instruction
Course Designation
Certificate in Global Competency
Industry Designation
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
Ethics is a crucial aspect of safe, competent mental health care. The patient population in mental health is vulnerable, stigmatized, and often oppressed. Psychiatric nurses must therefore pay particular attention to ethics and ethical decision-making. This course will examine ethical theories, concepts, and principles, and consider how these are to be applied in the practical setting of the therapeutic relationship. Special attention will be given to ethical issues that arise frequently in the psychiatric setting.

This course is restricted to Psychiatric Nursing Diploma/Degree students.
Course Content

Course content may be chosen from among the following areas, and may include additional or alternative material depending on the instructor.

1. Ethical theories:

  • moral relativism
  • deontology
  • utilitarianism
  • virtue ethics
  • the ethics of care
  • feminist and relational ethics
  • rights-based ethics
  • professional codes
  • the role of values in moral decision-making

2. Ethical principles:

  • beneficence
  • non-maleficence
  • autonomy and informed consent
  • social and distributive justice
  • veracity
  • fidelity
  • integrity

3. Ethical challenges in the mental health setting:

  • patient advocacy
  • psychiatric paternalism
  • stigma
  • justice and the Mental Health Act
  • involuntary treatment
  • research with psychiatric clients
  • anti-racism and culturally safe care
  • trauma-informed care
  • psychiatric advanced directives
  • mental health in the LGBTQ2S+ community
  • reproductive mental health
  • medical assistance in dying for mental health patients
  • drug-assisted treatment and the opioid crisis
  • moral distress and moral injury
  • scarcity of resources for psychiatric care
Learning Activities

Learning activities in this course are designed to encourage students to apply the concepts, skills, and principles of psychiatric nursing ethics.  Case studies, current events and political, ethical and professional issues will be used in discussion and critical reflection.

Means of Assessment

Assessment will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy.

The value of each assessment will be listed in the course outline distributed to students at the start of the term. Specific evaluation criteria may vary depending on the instructor, but in general will resemble the following example:

Attendance and participation: 10%

Midterm exam: 30%

Written assignment (e.g., term paper, annotated bibliography, case study): 30%

Final exam: 30%

The online section of the course in the degree completion program will incorporate online discussions and learning activities.


Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, successful students will:

1. demonstrate awareness of and sensitivity to the moral dilemmas that they will encounter in practice;

2. apply critical thinking skills to assess these dilemmas, while remaining aware of the influence of their own personal and professional values;

3. have developed strategies and  techniques within an ethical framework from which they can address moral dilemmas, while building safe therapeutic relationships with patients;

4. be able to discuss controversial moral issues in a fair and compassionate manner, recognizing that different perspectives on ethical questions should be addressed with respect;

5. demonstrate familiarity with the scholarly literature in psychiatric and mental health nursing ethics through independent and collaborative research;

6. understand and act on the need for cultural humility and anti-racist care for Indigenous patients.

Textbook Materials

Instructors may choose individual textbooks or may require a custom course reader. Examples of typical textbooks or sources for readings may include:

Barker, Phil, ed. Mental Health Ethics: The Human Context. London: Routledge, 2011.

Bloch, Sidney, and Stephen A. Green, eds. Psychiatric Ethics. 5th ed. London: Oxford University Press, 2021.

Radden, Jennifer, and John Z. Sadler. The Virtuous Psychiatrist: Character Ethics in Psychiatric Practice. London: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Robertson, Michael, and Garry Walter. Ethics and Mental Health: The Patient, Professions, and Community. New York: CRC Press, 2014.

Sisti, Dominic A., Arthur L. Caplan, and Hila Rimon-Greenspan, eds. Applied Ethics in Mental Health Care: An Interdisciplinary Reader. Boston: MIT Press, 2013.

Yeo, Michael, Anne Moorhouse, Pamela Khan, and Patricia Rodney. Concepts and Cases in Nursing Ethics. 4th ed. Calgary: Broadview Press, 2020.

Source journals for custom course readers include:

Nursing Ethics (Sage), International Journal of Mental Health Nursing (Wiley), Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing (Wiley), Journal of Ethics in Mental Health (McMaster University), and Journal of the American Psychiatric Nursing Association (Sage).



Students in the BSPN program are required to maintain a passing grade of 65% (C+) in all courses in order to progress in the program.

Students in the Returning RPN program are required to have a minimum grade of C+ for new student admissions or re-admissions from Fall 2017 and beyond. Students admitted prior to Fall 2017 require a minimum C grade in this course.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PHIL 3125
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU PHIL 3010 (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG PHIL 1105 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) No credit
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU PHIL 2310 (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV PHIL 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) No credit
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV PHIL 3XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC PHIL 3XX (1.5)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023