In a profession like practical nursing, which deals with the treatment of people, a Code of Ethics acts as a non-negotiable, governing document. Essentially, it is a contract that establishes practice standards for nurses at all career stages, nationwide. The LPN Code of Ethics, called the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements, is published by the American Nurses Association (ANA).
As the nursing field evolves, so does the code, and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) are expected to stay up-to-date as new amendments are incorporated. This Code of Ethics was officially adopted more than 70 years ago, in 1950, and the most recent version was released in 2015.
While representing America’s millions of nurses across the United States, the ANA is committed to advancing the nursing profession in four key ways:
- By fostering high standards of nursing practice;
- Promoting a work environment that is safe and ethical;
- Bolstering the health and wellness of nurses; and
- Acting as an advocacy voice for pressing healthcare issues.
As you’ll soon discover, the Code of Ethics for Nurses addresses each point in this organization’s charter, through nine specific provisions. For emerging LPNs, gaining familiarity with the Code of Ethics for Nurses is essential in the earliest moments of the training process. It sets the tone for how and why you provide care, and offers protections for both you and your patients.
First, let’s talk about the noun, “ethics” and its adjective, “ethical.” Why is this document called the Code of Ethics, and not described as a “moral” code? Don’t these words basically mean the same thing? Not exactly. Ethics is a theoretical reflection on morality. Morality describes values, character, or conduct, while ethics is a formal study of the former, bringing logical, philosophical, and analytical reasoning into focus. “Ethics” and “morality” are often incorrectly used in an interchangeable fashion, but now you know the difference. The 2015 version of the Code of Ethics for Nurses, for the first time in history, takes into account the evolution of the English language, and has included a glossary to define the use of important terms like these. This ensures that all readers are interpreting the same meaning. Reinforcing a common understanding is key to the success of any governing document. It mitigates misinterpretations and therefore decreases the potential for judicial action when disagreements arise.
The nine provisions of the Code of Ethics for Nurses are as follows:
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 are conducive to safe, quality health care.
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.
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.
These provisions are just the tip of the iceberg. The full Code of Ethics for Nurses elaborates with greatly detailed subtopics for each.
The LPN Code of Ethics helps practical nurses do their jobs, because every single day in this profession involves making decisions about ethical dilemmas. Nurses must balance their duty to provide advocacy and justice, while honoring the patient’s right to autonomy. The Code of Ethics offers proper guardrails that help in the toughest situations, and often make LPNs mirror superheroes. We’ve seen the evidence of this up close, throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. We watched nurses face unbelievable choices, including how to ethically prioritize care. One CNN writer explores how we began to use terms for decisions about patient care during COVID-19 that actually have their roots in warfare, such as, “triage.” Ethics will continue to be a hot topic in healthcare in 2021 as America launches into further plans for healing from the pandemic, and as healthcare policy reforms are introduced by the new administration.
It’s a great time to get started on your LPN career path with a program like Stone Academy’s LPN school. Graduates become eligible for fulfilling nursing roles in hospitals, long-term healthcare facilities, rehabilitation, and much more. Reach out to 800-585-1315 with your questions, or request information on our website. Since there are no required prerequisite courses, you can look forward to becoming a nurse in just 16 months, and providing the same ethical care that we are all so thankful for.