Tips to Practice the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses

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Written by Ayana Dunn, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A group of nurses in blue scrubs demonstrates the ANA Code of Ethics for nurses.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) developed the ANA Code of Ethics for nurses — a set of ethical principles that guide a nurse’s decision-making process throughout each shift. But what is the ANA Code of Ethics meant to do for patients? Good question. Its purpose is to maintain the high quality of care that’s expected of the nursing profession. The first version of The Code was adopted in the 1950s, and has undergone multiple revisions over time.

The Code is commonly used as a pledge during nursing school graduations or incorporated into new employee onboarding processes. Below, we explore each part of the Code of Ethics and provide scenarios in which nurses have the opportunity to use them.

Principles in the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses

The ANA provides guidance for the rights of nurses, ethical conduct, and workplace dynamics. The Code of Ethics is based on four ethical principles. They include:


The concept of autonomy applies to patients and nurses. The nurse provides enough education for patients to make informed choices about their care. In addition, the nurse is an autonomous member of the healthcare team and makes decisions within their scope of practice.


The nurse is called to prioritize the wellbeing of their patients. The nurse must uphold the patient’s best interests regardless of their own personal biases.


Nurses should be impartial and fair. The nurse must treat all patients with dignity and care no matter the patient’s personal opinions or background.


The nurse must work in a way that avoids or minimizes harm to the patient.

ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements

In 2015, the ANA updated the nursing Code of Ethics provisions. Below, we’ll list each provision, as stated by the ANA, and provide real-world examples to help illustrate the ANA Code of Ethics.

Provision 1

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

Example: A nurse is assigned a patient from an unfamiliar cultural background. She takes a moment to research etiquette and asks the patient about cultural considerations she should be mindful of. The nurse finds the balance between providing culturally appropriate and compassionate care.

Provision 2

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

Example: A nurse has a patient who wants to begin hospice, but the patient’s family wants to continue with the current method of care. The nurse listens to the family’s concerns but upholds the patient’s desires over that of the family. The nurse explains to the family that the patient’s wishes take priority.

Provision 3

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

Example: A patient’s complaints of pain are increasing, and the available interventions are no longer effective. The nurse contacts the attending physician to inquire about any other changes that could be made to bring the patient relief.

Provision 4

“The nurse has authority, accountability, and responsibility for nursing practice; makes decisions; and acts consistent with the obligation to provide optimal patient care.”

Example: A nurse notices a patient is deteriorating, and he suspects the patient will need more assistance. The nurse calls a rapid response team to prevent further decline.

Provision 5

“The nurse owes the same duties to herself 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.”

Example: A patient is being verbally abusive to the nurse, so the nurse sets a boundary by informing the patient that she won’t tolerate that kind of behavior. The behavior doesn’t change, so the nurse asks her supervisor to reiterate her message to the patient.

Provision 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.”

Example: A nurse notices that one of her coworkers isn’t practicing hand hygiene. The nurse finds a way to tactfully remind her peer to clean his hands between patients.

Provision 7

“The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy.”

Example: A nurse decides to join a committee that ensures that their facility is following evidence-based practice.

Provision 8

“The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy, and reduce health disparities.”

Example: A nurse joins a committee that advocates for social justice in healthcare for marginalized groups.

Provision 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.”

Example: A nurse networks with members of other professional organizations to deepen connections that will be mutually beneficial to their organizations and the patients they’re advocating for.

Put the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses Into Practice

Now that you have a better idea of what it takes to uphold ethical practice, implement what you learned about the ANA code of ethics for nursing during your upcoming shifts. Looking for more scheduling freedom? Join the IntelyCare team and create a flexible schedule that works for you.