Duke University School of Nursing is committed to achieving distinction in research, education and patient care predicated on our beliefs regarding human beings, society and the environment, health and health care delivery, nursing, and teaching and learning.

Human Beings

We believe that the dignity of each human being is to be respected and nurtured, and embracing our diversity affirms, respects, and celebrates the uniqueness of each person. We believe that each human being is a unique expression of attributes, behaviors, and values which are influenced by his or her environment, social norms, cultural values, physical characteristics, experiences, religious beliefs, and practices. We also believe that human beings exist in relation to one another, including families, communities, and populations.


As socio-cultural beings, humans are affected by and, in turn, influence the environments in which they exist—environments that are both internal (i.e., physiological, psychological, ethical) and external (i.e., cultural, political, social, economic, professional, global). Such environments influence the health of individuals and groups and also influence health care delivery systems, access to care, and health disparities. We believe that society has a responsibility for providing environments that are conducive to maximizing the potential of its individual members and of society as a whole, for eliminating long-term inequities that contribute to health disparities, and for creating systems and roles that protect its members.


We believe that optimal health does not preclude the existence of illness; health and illness exist on parallel continuums such that even people with chronic or debilitating illness may experience optimal levels of health through adaptation. We believe that all humans, from infants to the oldest of age, have a capacity to adapt to health and illness challenges whether they arise from environmental or genetic origins. Nursing’s role is to assess, support adaptation, or intervene when the appropriate ability does not exist within the individual or group. Because health is an innate characteristic of humans, we believe that high-quality health care is a human right.

Health Care Delivery

Maintaining optimal health and preventing disease for individuals, families, communities, and populations depend on collaborative partnerships between patients/families/communities and teams of interprofessional providers of care. We believe that health care must be patient-centered and that mutual trust between patients and providers is created by relationships that reflect respect for dignity, diversity, integrity, self-determination, empathy, and a capacity for grace and empowerment. Patients/Families/Communities must be supported and encouraged in making care decisions and in engaging in the adaptive work needed for responding to health or illness challenges as they transition through all levels of the care system.


Nursing exists as a function of society for the protection of its members through legally sanctioned roles, responsibilities, and scopes of practice. We believe that nursing is a scholarly discipline centered on assisting people to protect, promote, and optimize their health and abilities: prevent illness and injury; and alleviate suffering. Nursing achieves this through the diagnosis and treatment of human responses to health-threatening conditions, advocacy in the care of individuals and groups, and the generation and translation of research findings for nursing practice. Nursing is committed to a holistic and evidence-based approach to human caring and compassion, respecting the dignity, self-determination, and worth of all human beings. It is our belief that nursing focuses on the uniqueness of each human being, guided by the systematic process of assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation, the goal of which is to optimize the quality of adaptation in human beings.

We believe that nursing has a moral responsibility to the common good and an obligation to social justice and equitable access to culturally sensitive, high-quality care for all human beings. Nurses also are responsible for helping to reduce health disparities and reaching out to those, locally or abroad, who are vulnerable.

We believe that nurses begin as novices and progress to experts, with increasing complexities of knowledge, skills, and values needed to promote, maintain, restore, support, and maximize adaptation of humans as they fluctuate along the wellness and illness continuums. We affirm our commitment to scientific inquiry, the advancement of knowledge and understanding, and the transfer of that knowledge to others for the good of society through innovation and the novel application of technology. We believe that all nurses must practice to the full scope of their education and training in environments where laws, standards of practice, and reimbursement regulations are commensurate with education and experience.


We believe that our purpose is to develop nurse leaders in practice, education, administration, and research by focusing on students’ intellectual growth and development as adults committed to high ethical standards and full participation in their communities. We recognize that it is the responsibility of all individuals to assume ownership of and responsibility for ongoing learning and to continually refine the skills that facilitate critical inquiry for lifelong learning.

Duke University School of Nursing promotes an intellectual environment that is built on a commitment to free and open inquiry and is a center of excellence for the promotion of scholarship and advancement of nursing science, practice, and education. We affirm that it is the responsibility of faculty to create and nurture academic initiatives that strengthen our engagement of real-world issues by anticipating new models of knowledge formation and applying knowledge to societal issues. This, we believe, equips students with the necessary cognitive skills, clinical reasoning, clinical imagination, professional identity, and commitment to the values of the profession that are necessary to function as effective and ethical nurse leaders in situations that are under determined, contingent and changing over time.

Approved by the Faculty of the School of Nursing, October 24, 2011

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