When nurses make professional judgments, their decisions are based on a reflection of consequences and on universal moral principles. A respect for individuals as unique persons is the most fundamental of these principles. Other principles deriving from this core principle are: doing good, avoiding harm, telling the truth, keeping promises, treating persons fairly, respecting privileged data, and self-determination.
A code of ethics states the primary goals and values of the profession. It indicates a profession's acceptance of the trust and responsibility with which it has been empowered by society. A code of ethics serves to inform both nurses and society of the profession's expectations and requirements in ethical matters. An ethical code provides a framework within which nurses can make ethical decisions and fulfill their responsibilities to the public, to other members of the health team, and to the profession.
The following Code of Ethics for Nurses was developed by the American Nurses Association (ANA). It is meant to serve as a guide throughout a nurse's professional practice.
ANA Code Of Ethics For Nurses*
- The nurse, in all professional relationships, practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and uniqueness of every individual, unrestricted by considerations of social or economic status, personal attributes, or the nature of health problems.
- The nurse's primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community.
- The nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient.
- The nurse is responsible and accountable for individual nursing practice and determines the appropriate delegation of tasks consistent with the nurse's obligation to provide optimum patient care.
- The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to preserve integrity and safety, to maintain competence, and to continue personal and professional growth.
- The nurse participates in establishing, maintaining, and improving healthcare environments and conditions of employment conducive to the provision of quality health care and consistent with the values of the profession through individual and collective action.
- The nurse participates in the advancement of the profession through contributions to practice, education, administration, and knowledge development.
- The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public in promoting community, national, and international efforts to meet health needs.
- The profession of nursing, as represented by associations and their members, is responsible for articulating nursing values, for maintaining the integrity of the profession and its practice, and for shaping social policy.
*Reprinted with permission from American Nurses Association, Code of Ethics for Nurses, © American Nurses Publishing, American Nurses Foundation/American Nurses Association, Washington, D.C.