All About the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses: What You Need to Know


ANA Code of Ethics

By Leigh Morgan, contributor

Nursing is about more than dressing wounds and administering medications; it's also about respecting the dignity of every patient you encounter. The ANA nursing code of ethics outlines several principles nurses must follow, regardless of where they work or how much experience they have. Read on to find out more about this code of ethics and what it means for your professional practice.

Demonstrating compassion

One of the most important obligations of a nurse is to demonstrate compassion toward patients and their family members; this is so important that it's the first provision of the ANA nursing code of ethics. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, patients perceive a lack of compassion as a sign that a nurse does not value them or support them. The study offers important insights for how you can be more compassionate as a nurse.

  • Display a caring attitude toward patients.
  • Ask patients about their emotions — not just their physical symptoms.
  • Treat each patient as an individual rather than assuming that all patients with similar medical problems are exactly alike.
  • Do your best to help patients maintain their independence, even if they need assistance with basic activities.
  • Make time to really listen to your patient's concerns, even if you are busy.

Protecting patients

Another important provision of the ANA nursing code of ethics is the obligation to protect the patient's health, rights and safety at all times. Nursing teams are considered "microsystems" of care delivery, according to Patient Safety and Quality, a handbook written specifically for nurses. Within these teams, each nurse is responsible for protecting patients by taking steps to avoid errors, speaking up when a patient's rights are about to be violated and ensuring that patients have the information and tools they need to manage their health.

One way to adhere to this provision of the code is to speak up when you identify a potential safety issue. According to an editorial written by AnneMarie Palatnik, MSN, and published in Nursing2019 Critical Care, ineffective communication — which includes failing to speak up when you know something is wrong — is a major cause of sentinel events in the medical profession. Speaking up when you see something wrong can prevent medication errors, missed or delayed diagnoses and other preventable medical errors. It can also help you improve your professional reputation and preserve your nursing career.

Patient commitment

According to the provisions of the ANA code, nurses are required to put the patient's needs first and avoid any potential conflicts of interest. The code of ethics also states that it's important to preserve professional boundaries. You can adhere to this provision of the code by taking the following steps, as recommended by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing:

  • Avoid showing favoritism to any of your patients.
  • Be careful not to share secrets with a patient or keep secrets on behalf of a patient.
  • Don't spend more time than necessary with a single patient, as this could be misconstrued as a level of interest that goes beyond the boundaries of the nurse-patient relationship.
  • Avoid behaviors that can be interpreted as flirtatious or overly friendly.

Professional development

Based on the provisions of the ANA nursing code of ethics, all nurses are expected to engage in personal and professional development to help them maintain a high level of competence. Ongoing professional development helps nurses learn new skills and gain knowledge related to patient care, and it can improve your satisfaction with your career as a nurse. Take advantage of these benefits by going above and beyond what is required to maintain your nursing license. Attend lectures, take continuing-education courses online, obtain new certifications and present papers at conferences to keep your skills fresh and build professional relationships with other nurses.

Ready to put your new skills to the test? Search for current job openings at the website.

Research and practice standards

In addition to protecting patients, maintaining appropriate professional boundaries and demonstrating compassion, nurses are expected to elevate the profession by participating in scholarly inquiry and aiding in the development of professional standards. According to a study published in the Journal of Nursing Education, research has a tremendous impact on the nursing profession; in this context, research is defined as "systematic inquiry designed to develop knowledge about issues of importance to nurses, including nursing practice, nursing education and nursing administration."

Nursing is a rewarding profession that brings you into contact with people from all walks of life. Although the nurse's primary responsibility is to deliver quality patient care, nurses also have many ethical obligations. Adhering to the ANA nursing code of ethics can help you meet these obligations and get more satisfaction out of your career.


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