What is the Nursing Code of Ethics?

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Apr 3, 2023
3 nurses pledging - nursing code of ethics

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  1. What is the code of ethics for nurses?
  2. 9 Provisions of the Code of Ethics for Nurses

The American Nurses Association (ANA) put together the Nursing Code of Ethics to guide nursing practice and ensure the highest standards of ethical behavior.

The code of ethics is essential for nurses to maintain professional integrity, provide safe and competent care, and promote trust and confidence in the nursing profession.

By organizing the code of ethics into provisions, the ANA can provide a comprehensive and detailed set of guidelines for nurses to navigate ethical dilemmas they’ll likely face in their practice. 

What is the code of ethics for nurses?

Nurses are entrusted with caring for vulnerable individuals and communities, and a code of ethics helps ensure that they provide safe, compassionate, and competent care while maintaining professional integrity.

Nurses encounter complex ethical dilemmas daily, and a code of ethics helps them navigate these situations with confidence and clarity. 

It outlines the expectations for ethical behavior and provides a basis for evaluating the performance of nurses in their practice. The code of ethics also serves as a basis for developing and enforcing professional standards and guidelines.

Nursing Code of Ethics vs Nursing Principles

The nursing code of ethics and nursing principles both guide nurses’ professional conduct and decision-making. 

The nursing code of ethics provides a framework for ethical decision-making and helps to promote patient safety and quality care.

On the other hand, nursing principles are broader and more general concepts that guide nursing practice. These principles are derived from nursing theory and research, inform clinical decision-making, and guide nursing interventions. 

Both the code of ethics and nursing principles are essential to nursing practice and help ensure that nurses provide safe, effective, and compassionate care to their patients.

The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics

The ANA recognizes that nurses work in complex and rapidly changing environments facing daily challenging ethical dilemmas. The code serves as a foundation for ethical nursing practice and helps maintain the trust and confidence of patients, families, and the public.

The development of the Nursing Code of Ethics is a collaborative effort involving nurses from across the United States. 

The most recent revision of the code was published in 2015 and consists of nine provisions that outline the ethical responsibilities of nurses. These provisions are grounded in the core values of nursing, including respect for human dignity, integrity, autonomy, altruism, and social justice.

The ANA code of ethics is divided into nine provisions to provide a clear framework for ethical nursing practice. Each provision addresses a specific aspect of ethical nursing practice, such as:

  • Nurses’ responsibility to maintain patient confidentiality.
  • Advocating for patients’ rights.
  • Maintaining competence and ongoing professional development. 

Taking the NCLEX? Read here to learn more about HIPAA, Ethics, and Legal exam questions.

9 Provisions of the Code of Ethics for Nurses

1. “The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person.” 

Take responsibility for acting in the best interests of their patients, ensuring their safety, promoting their health, and advocating for their needs. This provision is essential in ensuring that nurses prioritize patient care above all other considerations.

2. “The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community.” 

Be knowledgeable about their patients’ rights and take steps to ensure that these rights are protected. Nurses must also take action to promote their patients’ health and safety, including ensuring they receive proper care and treatment and that their environment is free from hazards.

3. “The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.” 

Maintain your own health and well-being to provide effective care to patients. Nurses must also ensure they practice in a safe and healthy environment, taking steps to prevent injury and illness.

4. “The nurse has authority, accountability, and responsibility for nursing practice, makes decisions, and takes actions consistent with the obligation to promote health and to provide optimal care.” 

Take responsibility for your own learning and development, and seek opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills. Nurses must also contribute to advancing the nursing profession, sharing their expertise and advocating for best practices.

5. “The nurse owes the same duties to the self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence, and continue personal and professional growth.” 

Work with other healthcare professionals, patients, families, and communities to promote health and prevent illness. Nurses must also be knowledgeable about public health issues and take steps to promote the health of the wider community.

6. “The nurse participates in establishing, maintaining, and improving healthcare environments and conditions of employment conducive to the provision of quality healthcare and consistent with the values of the profession through individual and collective action.” 

Share your knowledge and expertise with others, including colleagues, students, and the wider community. Nurses must also engage in research and other activities that promote the development of nursing knowledge and practice.

7. “The nurse participates in the advancement of the profession through contributions to practice, education, administration, and knowledge development.” 

Work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals to provide the best possible care to their patients. Nurses must communicate effectively and share information, working together to develop and implement effective care plans.

8. “The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to promote and protect human rights, health, and the environment.” 

Work to create a workplace culture of respect, caring, and safety, advocating for policies and practices that promote staff well-being and prevent workplace violence and other hazards.

9. “The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional organizations, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and health policy.” 

Take responsibility for providing high-quality care that is consistent with ethical principles. By maintaining the integrity of the profession, nurses can ensure that they are providing the best possible care to their patients.

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