ANA HOUSE OF DELEGATES PASSES REVISED CODE OF ETHICS
Profession's guiding document addresses 21st Century health care issues
Washington, DC -- Members of the American Nurses Association (ANA) House of Delegates (HOD) today voted overwhelmingly to pass a revised Code of Ethics for Nurses that more accurately reflects the issues facing modern-day nurses in the nation's current health care environment as well as their unchanging mission to provide quality care.
"The Code of Ethics for Nurses has always been a key guiding document for the nursing profession as well as a strong support for individual nurses who are involved in principled actions in controversial situations," said ANA President Mary Foley, MS, RN. "But with the revisions that have been adopted, this new Code will serve the profession even more efficiently because it clearly explains the mission of nursing in society and how nurses partner with the public with regard to health promotion, patient recovery and illness prevention."
It is also expected that the 2001 Code, which acknowledges the reality of managed care and other health care policy initiatives, "will better serve nurses involved in legal challenges, as well as strengthen nurses' rights in collective bargaining and workplace advocacy situations," Foley added.
The ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses, which functions as the blueprint for nursing's professional goals and values, includes nine provisions and interpretive statements that have been revised periodically since 1950. The Code was last updated in 1985, and although this version embodies nursing's core values, it was determined that the document no longer provides timely guidance for practice.
A key aspect of the revision is new language that acknowledges the myriad challenges in the nurse's work environment in the 21st century. The new Code, while retaining the timeless values inherent in the nursing profession over the past 100 years - including the identification of important virtues, duties and responsibilities of the nurse - also emphasizes subtle changes in health care relationships, as well as the nurse's right to practice in an environment that is safe and which protects patients' rights and the rights of nurses as health care professionals.
For example, the first provision of the 1985 version of the Code declares the nurse's respect for the dignity, worth and uniqueness of each "client." In the revised Code, "client" is replaced by "patient" and "individual." Also, a section has been added stating that "the principal of respect for persons extends to all individuals with whom the nurse interacts," including "colleagues and others."
Among other changes in the Code is the addition of language in the second provision that addresses the primacy of the patient's interests, conflicts of interest for nurses and collaboration within the health care setting. And the third provision has been altered to establish a greater foundation of patient advocacy and health promotion among nurses, particularly with regard to patient privacy and confidentiality.
"This new language addresses such issues as the development of policies and review mechanisms designed to promote safety and reduce the likelihood of errors, " Foley noted, "with both environmental system factors and human factors that present increased risk to patients being considered."
Also included in the Code is language asserting that nurses should not participate in the direct act of assisted suicide. This language, while reinforcing that ANA supports pain relief at the end of life, even if it hastens the patient's death, further clarifies ANA's stance with regard to such issues as end-of-life cancer care and other situations which have resulted in a public outcry for better relief of suffering.
"This change, and other similar language changes, reflect the nurse's role as a patient advocate and our obligation to protect the health of the public as a whole," Foley said. The process of revising the new Code is a culmination of years of fine tuning and careful decision-making about the final language. Throughout this revision process, the Task Force attempted to seek the opinions and suggestions of a wide range of nurses, individuals and groups. Reviews were conducted through regional conference calls, presentations, extensive field reviews, and numerous individual and group discussions.
"We are excited about the new 2001 Code and expect that it will be enthusiastically adopted by the nursing community, the health care community and the public at large as the premier guiding document of the nursing profession," Foley asserted.
The newly revised Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements will be published later this summer. It can be purchased by calling 1-800-637-0323 and asking for publication CEN21HA1. The price is $11.95 for ANA members and $14.95 for nonmembers.