The development of Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements is a benchmark for both the American Nurses Association and for the profession of nursing as a whole. The evolution of the Code dates from 1893 when the “Nightingale Pledge” was adopted, and from 1926 and 1940 when tentative Codes were suggested but not formally ratified. This is the first time in the last 25 years that the entire Code has been revised and the second time in the last 50 years that an entirely new document has been produced. This Code is the result of five years of work on the part of the Code of Ethics Project Task Force, an advisory board, state liaisons, and ANA staff. It is the culmination of more than ten field reviews of drafts that were circulated in hard copy and made available online, incorporating comments from hundreds of nurses across the United States and abroad.
The ethical tradition that has been manifest in every iteration of the Code is self-reflective, enduring, and distinctive. The ethical standard established by the Code of Ethics is nonnegotiable. This means that the Code supports the nurse in a steadfast way across various settings and in a variety of nursing roles. This Code of Ethics is for all nurses and is particularly useful at the beginning of the 21st century because it: reiterates the fundamental values and commitments of the nurse (provisions 1–3); identifies the boundaries of duty and loyalty (provisions 4–6); and describes the duties of the nurse that extend beyond individual patient encounters (provisions 7–9). The achievement of a true global awareness about the human condition and the needs for health care is one of the most important moral challenges of the 21st century and this Code beckons nurses toward such an awareness.
The Code of Ethics is the promise that nurses are doing their best to provide care for their patients and their communities, supporting each other in the process so that all nurses can fulfill their ethical and professional obligations. This Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements is an important tool that can be used now as leverage to a better future for nurses, patients, and health care.