What Is the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses?

nurse who is reliable and follows the ANA Code of Ethics
Written by
Jacky Habib
August 7, 2023

Nurses play an essential role in providing empathetic care for patients and supporting them in what may be some of the most challenging moments of their lives. With this role come the complexities of working with patients at critical moments when they are vulnerable and dealing with numerous privacy and other sensitive issues. To ensure that nurses operate with integrity in their work, the ANA code of ethics guides nurses in carrying out their roles with the highest standard of ethical care. Abiding by this code of ethics is also essential for per diem nurses, who serve as support systems to patients and healthcare facilities across the country. 

Table of Contents

In this blog post, you’ll learn about the ANA Code of Ethics, its purpose, and the ways this code applies to you as a nurse. We’ll also share information about the American Nurses Association and what it does so that you can familiarize yourself with the leading national organization for nurses. 

What Does the ANA Stand for in Medical Terms?

ANA stands for the American Nurses Association, which has been a vocal advocate for nurses for over a century. The organization represents millions of registered nurses (RNs) nationwide through memberships and partnerships with nursing organizations. 

What Is the American Nurses Association?

The American Nurses Association, known as the ANA, is the leading organization representing the nation's four million registered nurses. The organization has been working since 1896 to foster high standards of nursing practice, promote safe and ethical work environments, support nurses' health and well-being, and advocate for various healthcare issues; it has also played a key role in America’s nursing history. 

The ANA has members across the entire country and works to support them on a range of issues, from professional development to lobbying the government on behalf of nurses, which ultimately improves the working conditions of nurses and leads to better outcomes for patients: a true win-win situation. 

According to the ANA, the organization “takes bold stances on issues important to its members” and “has taken firm positions on a range of issues, including Medicare reform, the importance of safe nurse staffing, workplace violence, whistleblower protections for healthcare workers, and adequate reimbursement for health care services.”

Is There a Standard Nursing Code of Ethics?

The American Nurses Association developed a standard code of ethics for nurses known as the ANA Code of Ethics. This code guides nurses in outlining the ethical obligations and principles that should guide their practice. 

The code emphasizes four key principles as follows: 

  • Autonomy, which pertains to the importance of respecting patients' rights and choices and which the ANA defines as “providing adequate information to allow patients to make their own decisions based on their beliefs and values, even if they aren’t the ones the nurse chooses.”
  • Beneficence, which promotes the well-being of patients and is related to “ensuring that the patient's best interest is considered, regardless of the nurse's personal opinion.”
  • Justice, which emphasizes fairness and equality, particularly “regarding a patient's age, ethnicity, economic status, religion, or sexual orientation.”
  • Non-maleficence, which underscores the duty not to harm, which “requires the provision of safe, effective, high-quality care. Examples of nonmaleficence in nursing include holding a medication due to adverse reactions or taking steps to ensure a safe work environment.” 

Learn More about How Non-Maleficence Applies to Nurses 

These ethical principles are vital for nurses to provide high-quality, compassionate care while upholding ethical standards and prioritizing patient welfare. 

In addition to the ANA Code of Ethics, the American Nurses Association also provides nurses with numerous resources on how to best manage ethical situations such as bioethics, end-of-life care, human trafficking, and issues of morality. 

History of the Code of Ethics in Nursing

Ethics has long played a central role in nursing, with the ANA prioritizing the development of a code of ethics as far back as 1896, after decades of widespread recognition that the profession would benefit from a shared ethical standard. It wasn’t until 1950, however, that the first formal code of ethics for nurses was adopted. Before establishing this code of ethics, nurses used Gretter’s Nightingale Pledge, which has been slightly modified over time and is widely known today as the Hippocratic Oath.

The pledge is as follows: 

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”

What Is the Purpose of the ANA?

The ANA exists to represent the interests of nurses nationwide and cultivate a culture of greatness within the nursing profession. Through active advocacy, the establishment of benchmarks, and the provision of valuable tools, the organization aims to enhance the overall standard of healthcare and support nurses in their professional development. 

What Does the American Nurses Association Do? 

The American Nurses Association promotes excellence in nursing practice by supporting the well-being of nurses in various practice settings, including advocating for nurses' safety and health. The ANA also upholds high practice standards, strives for healthcare improvements, and champions the interests of nurses. 

For nurses, being members of the ANA also helps support their careers as the organization offers free resources for continuing education for nurses, events, and an online community. Nurses, of course, have several options for joining communities, including Nursa’s online community, which is a digital hub to connect with and learn from other nursing professionals across the country. 

While the organization is commonly referred to as the ANA, it is part of the ANA Enterprise, which is a cohesive organization whose overarching goal is to champion the welfare, security, and wellness of nurses in every work environment through three entities: the American Nurses Association, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and the American Nurses Foundation, the latter of which invests in programs that enhance healthcare outcomes and advance the nursing profession.

What Is Nursing, According to the American Nurses Association?

According to the ANA, nursing is both a science and an art. The promotion and optimization of health, including the prevention of illness and injury, are important aspects of nursing. Advocating for the well-being and capabilities of individuals, families, communities, and populations is another fundamental part of the nursing profession. While the responsibilities of nurses range greatly due to the varied nursing specialties available, nurses are experts who monitor patients’ health and provide holistic support for their well-being. 

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Jacky Habib
Blog published on:
August 7, 2023

Meet Jacky, a contributing copywriter at Nursa who specializes in writing about nursing specialties, FAQs, and career advice.

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