Nursing Code of Ethics Explained

by NurseJournal Staff
• 4 min read

his guide to the Nursing Code of Ethics explains why nurses need to understand and comply with the code's provisions and describes the training needed to uphold these ethical standards.

Because nurses work in challenging conditions confronting life and death situations, the nursing code of ethics establishes standards that help them provide the best quality patient care with compassion, respect, and accountability.

The most recently revised version of the Code of Ethics for Nurses developed by the American Nurses Association (ANA) establishes these ethical standards for nursing professionals.

The code compels nurses to make decisions that protect the rights and safety of their patients independent of personal bias or conflicts of interest. The nursing code of ethics serves as a foundational, non-negotiable guide for nurses to use when analyzing situations and making ethical decisions in the best interests of their patients.

9 Provisions in the Nursing Code of Ethics

The ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses consists of nine provisions and support statements. The provisions assert the ethical and moral foundation of the nursing profession.

  • Provision 1: The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person.
  • Provision 2: The nurse's primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community, or population.
  • Provision 3: The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.
  • Provision 4: The nurse has authority, accountability, and responsibility for nursing practice; makes decisions; and takes action consistent with the obligation to promote health and to provide optimal care.
  • Provision 5: The nurse owes the same duties to self 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.
  • 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 support safe, quality healthcare.
  • Provision 7: The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and the initiation of both nursing and health policy.
  • Provision 8: The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy, and reduce health disparities.
  • 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.

How to Become an Ethical Nurse

Becoming a registered nurse (RN) requires at least a nursing diploma or two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN), although an increasing number of employers require a four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

Ethics training has become an important part of nursing education, providing the skills needed for ethically guided decision-making that aligns with the nursing code of ethics.

Steps to Become a Registered Nurse

Complete prerequisites for nursing school
Most nursing schools ask students to complete prerequisites in courses like anatomy, physiology, biology, psychology, and statistics before allowing them to enroll. Aspiring nurses should check on the specific liberal arts and science prerequisites before applying to their intended programs.
Earn an ADN or a BSN degree
An ADN offers the fastest route to an RN degree, taking approximately two years to complete. Most BSN degrees require four years but accelerated programs allow students who hold a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field to complete their nursing training in approximately one year.
Pass the NCLEX-RN
The National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) is required by all states for RN licensure. In their last semester of studies, students should apply to the state nursing board where they intend to practice and register to take this computerized exam.
Find employment
While RNs can expect a promising employment outlook, the field has become competitive. Nursing students should try to stand out from other job seekers by using their school’s career center for help with resumes and identifying appropriate job openings.
Earn board certification
RNs who get certifications in specialty areas such as critical care, pediatrics, or gerontology broaden their career and salary prospects. Board certifications typically require two years of clinical practice in the desired specialty and passing the certification exam.

Related Resources

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Portrait of Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

Nicole Galan, RN, MSN

Nicole Galan, RN, MSN, is a registered nurse who earned a master’s degree in nursing education from Capella University and currently works as a full-time freelance writer. Throughout her nursing career, Galan worked in a general medical/surgical care unit and then in infertility care. She has also worked for over 13 years as a freelance writer specializing in consumer health sites and educational materials for nursing students.

Galan is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners here. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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