The ANA Code of Ethics

Nursing Knowledge

The ANA Code of Ethics

To practice confidently and with integrity, today’s nurses must have in place several key elements that guide the profession: an accreditation process for education, a regular system for licensure, and a relevant code of ethics. The nationally accepted guide to ethical nursing practice is the Code of Ethics established by the American Nurses Association (ANA).
Last updated: December 4, 2023


Remember the universal patient rights and the ethical principles that should guide every nurse's practice with this handy cheat sheet.

Table of contents

What is the ANA code of ethics? 

The ANA Code of Ethics, developed by the American Nurses Association (ANA), is a foundational document that establishes ethical principles for the nursing profession. It serves as a guide for nurses in all settings and roles to uphold the respect, integrity, and dignity of their practice, ensuring that they provide quality care and adhere to the highest ethical standards.

Origin of the code

The origins of the code of ethics reach back to the late 1800s in the foundation of the American Nurses Association. The first nursing code of ethics was formally adopted by the ANA in 1950. 

Purpose of the ANA code of nursing

  • Establishes the ethical standard for the nursing profession
  • Provides a guide for nurses to use in ethical analysis and decision making
  • It is non-negotiable. 
  • Serves as a foundation of nursing theory and practice
  • Makes explicit the primary obligations, values, and ideals of the nursing profession
  • Informs every aspect of a nurse’s life
  • It is a dynamic document, constantly evolving and adjusting with the profession’s development.

ANA code of ethics provisions

  1. The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and unique attributes of each person.
  2. The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, a family, a group, community or a population.
  3. The nurse promotes, advocates for and protects the rights, health and safety of the patient.
  4. The nurse has the authority, accountability and responsibility for nursing practice; makes decisions and takes action consistent with the obligation to promote health and provide optimal care.
  5. The nurse owes the same duties to themself 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.
  6. The nurse, through individual and collective effort, establishes, maintains and improves the ethical environment of the work setting and conditions of employment that are conducive to safe, quality health care.
  7. The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards and development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy.
  8. The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy and reduce health disparities.

Can a nurse face disciplinary actions for violating the ANA code? 

Yes, while the Code isn’t legally binding, nurses can face disciplinary actions from their licensing board or employer for serious violations, which can impact their professional standing.

Is the ANA code only applicable in clinical settings?

No, the Code is applicable across various nursing roles, whether in clinical practice, research, education, or administration. It’s a universal guide for ethical nursing behavior.

Why is the ANA code of ethics seen as a living document?

The ANA code of ethics is regularly revisited and updated to reflect the evolving context of healthcare, societal changes, and emerging ethical challenges, due to new technical and/or scientific developments.

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Nursing Cheat Sheet

Remember the universal patient rights and the ethical principles that should guide every nurse’s practice with this handy cheat sheet.

Master the topic with a unique study combination of a concise summary paired with video lectures. 

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