Principle A

Principle A letter

Nurses and nursing staff treat everyone in their care with dignity and humanity - they understand their individual needs, show compassion and sensitivity, and provide care in a way that respects all people equally.


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Principle A focuses on dignity, equality and diversity, and humanity.

You may find the following commentary article about Principle A a useful starting point for exploring this Principle. It is published by the Nursing Standard as part of an introductory series on the Principles of Nursing Practice:
Jackson A, Irwin W (2011) Dignity, humanity and equality: Principle of Nursing Practice A. Nursing Standard 25(28) 16 March pp.35-37 (PDF 563KB) [see how to access PDF files].

Other useful resources are:

A selection of RCN resources which are particularly relevant to Principle A

The following resources and services produced by the RCN provide guidance and support to people wishing to use the Principles for quality improvement purposes or their own continuing professional development.  

To access any Learning Zone content you will be asked to enter your RCN membership number. If you require assistance with entering the Learning Zone, or would like further information on becoming a member of the RCN please contact RCN Direct on 0345 772 6100. Some of the resources referred to below are in PDF format – see how to access PDF files.

Clinical governance: Patient focus: one of the themes within the clinical governance online resource, this signposts key policies, agencies, guidance and tools which support public and patient involvement and patient choice and the improvement of the patient experience.

Defining nursing (PDF 1.03MB) (2003): this publication provides the RCN’s definition of nursing. One of the defining characteristics of nursing is treating patients with dignity and compassion.

Dementia: an online resource which supports the RCN's commitment to the care of people with dementia in general hospitals. The commitment sets out key principles and considerations for promoting a positive experience for people with dementia and their families and can be used by staff to help support improvements and make positive changes. View the Commitment. The commitment is also supported by a range of resources that can be used by nursing staff to improve dementia care.

Dignity: an online resource which promotes dignified care and provides a range of resources to put this into practice. These resources will help to support a patient-centred approach to care and enable patients, their relatives and carers to feel in control and be able to make decisions for themselves.

Dignity in health care: explore this learning resource to strengthen your understanding and practice in promoting dignity for your patients or clients and your colleagues, wherever you work, and whatever your role is within the nursing family.

Diversity and equality: this online resource offers RCN members support and information on the broad spectrum of issues relating to valuing diversity and implementing equality of opportunity in the workplace.

Diversity appraisal resource guide: helping employers, RCN officers and representatives promote diversity in the workplace (2002) (PDF 280KB): this publication provides guidance for employers, RCN officers and representatives to promote diversity in the workplace.

Older people: this resource brings together a range of resources that can inform and support care for older people. This includes information and publications from work that the RCN has been carrying out on older people's care such as the guidance on safe staffing levels for older people’s wards. There is a best practice gallery highlighting examples of good practice in older people’s care and demonstrating the RCN Principles of Nursing Practice, and policy and guidance from across the UK are also signposted. 

Proud: the RCN is proud of the diversity within the nursing comunity. This campaign is part of the RCN's work to implement equality of opportunity and promote a human-rights based approach to health care.

Social inclusion: an online resource that focuses on the needs of specific groups of excluded people and hard-to-reach communities. The resource provides a set of principles for a socially inclusive approach to the delivery of nursing care. The sections on the different groups - asylum seekers and refugees, Gypsies and Travellers, homeless people, people with a learning disability, people with a mental health problem, people with an offending history, sex workers – help to highlight the issues faced by these individuals and communities and signpost resources that will support care appropriate to their needs.

Spirituality: “a person’s spirituality, whether religious or non-religious, provides belief structures and ways of coping through which people begin to rebuild and make sense of their lives in times of trauma and distress. It offers ways in which people can explain and cope with their illness experiences...". This resource has been created to enable nursing staff to develop their knowledge and understanding of spirituality and spiritual care. It was created in response to RCN membership who identified the need for the nursing family to be able to be proactive in delivering spiritual care, and it builds on the RCN spirituality pocket guide published in 2011. Links to relevant RCN publications are provided as well as links to other resources and publications on spiritual care.

For further RCN publications see Publications

RCN library and heritage services e-library: provides a range of resources that RCN members can access for further information. These include full text journals, databases, e-books and Fast searches which are up-to-date searches on frequently asked selected topics.