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The CNA Code of Ethics

Diligently serving patients around the globe, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are a compassionate and moral force on the frontline in healthcare. Acting unethically or unprofessionally as a CNA, however, can lead to disastrous consequences for every stakeholder involved. Patients may experience poor health outcomes, healthcare facilities may face severe financial and legal repercussions, and the CNA in question is unlikely to have a long or successful career in the field if they exhibit unethical behavior.

To avoid such outcomes, it’s important to adhere to a code of ethics and best practices in regards to professional conduct. A common component of CNA training programs, ethical guidance is a vital part of your role in healthcare. Following the advice provided below will help you provide the best possible care to the patients you will serve as a CNA, as well as maximize your chances of career success.

Core Values for CNAs

The ethical expectations of nursing assistants can be broken down into a few core values. Understanding and communicating your commitment to adhering to these values is a great way to distinguish yourself as a strong CNA candidate, so be sure to do so in your cover letter when applying for work and during job interviews. Internalizing these values and finding ways to implement them in your daily routine is a great start to acting ethically in your capacity as a CNA.

Protecting the Health of Patients

The primary focus of nursing aides is to preserve life and ease patient suffering. Above all other considerations, the patient’s welfare must come first. This requires viewing each patient as an individual, regardless of any racial, ethnic, or religious differences. CNAs must also consider all of their patients’ needs, including physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs. Essential CNA skills include being able to start a conversation with your patients — including patients who may have cognitive or speech-related issues.

There are many ways you can prioritize the health of patients. Among these, you can:

  • Avoid making assumptions about patients based on their identity or how they look. Understanding cultural diversity is vital when it comes to earning patient trust. Healthcare stereotyping can have a serious impact on health outcomes by causing you to overlook potential symptoms/causes or making patients mistrustful of you.
  • Show respect to patients and never share personal issues or complaints with them. This demonstrates that your sole focus as a CNA is to prioritize patient outcomes.
  • Provide care to patients based on their needs — not on the gifts they can give you. In fact, many doctors, nurses, and nursing assistants refuse all gifts from patients, as they may be construed as “boundary violations” in regards to professional conduct.


Keeping health records secure and prioritizing patient confidentiality are key concerns for all stakeholders in the world of healthcare, and CNAs are no exception. Not only are these important to ensure fair and adequate patient care, but they are also mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); non-compliance on the part of a CNA could put their patients, the facility they work at, and themselves at jeopardy.

Maintaining confidentiality is a concern that should be at the forefront of your mind at all times. Some examples of behaviors that protect patient confidentiality include:

  • Remaining compliant with HIPAA and workplace-related regulations in regard to the protection of patient information. This includes how information can be used, as well as when and how confidential information should be discarded.
  • Understanding what constitutes protected health information, as well as when and with whom you can share it. Avoid discussing this information in a setting that could put it at risk.
  • Reporting any data breach you witness involving sensitive patient data to your employer as soon as possible. It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s the law.

Cooperation and Coordination

At any healthcare facility, there are many stakeholders. Patients, doctors, nurses, fellow CNAs, other trained medical staff — to maximize healthcare outcomes, each of these groups must work in conjunction and be kept apprised of any changes to the patient’s condition. To play their part effectively, CNAs must be communicative and demonstrate loyalty to their employer and co-workers. This involves a commitment to the values of cooperation and coordination.

There are plenty of practical ways to embody these values. For example:

  • You should never attempt to perform medical procedures that you aren’t trained to do or are unauthorized to perform. Instead, you should defer to medical staff who are prepared to perform such tasks.
  • You should be flexible in your day-to-day work routine as a CNA. Be willing to adjust as needed to best accommodate your employer and patients.
  • Be observant to ensure that no employee is endangering patients. If you notice inappropriate workplace behaviors that may endanger patients or medical staff, submit a complaint to management.

Staying Up-to-Date on Healthcare Best Practices

The healthcare industry is always changing, and professionals in the field must continue to sharpen their knowledge and skills to best serve patients. To maximize your ability to act ethically and efficiently in regards to all of the previous values discussed here, you should keep up-to-date on healthcare best practices. In fact, many states require that CNAs complete continuing education requirements before they can have their licenses renewed for this very reason.

Again, there are many examples of strategies you can employ to address this value. Among these, you can:

  • Read professional news articles, journals, and blogs to learn more about new developments in the healthcare field. If you are unsure of where you should begin, taking a CNA practice test can help you identify areas where you may need to brush up your knowledge.
  • In addition to being certified as a CNA, you can acquire additional certifications and complete courses to learn new skills. From Alzheimer’s training to seclusion/restraint training, there are a wide range of certifications and courses to broaden your skillset.
  • Network with other medical professionals through healthcare conferences and professional organizations.

Professional Standards for Nursing Assistants

In addition to the above ethics, there are professional standards that CNAs should abide by to maximize their impact and improve their chances of a successful career.

How to Make a Good Impression as a CNA

CNAs can make efforts to improve their personal appearance and behavior in order to make a good impression in the workplace. This involves abiding by any employer-provided dress codes, though there are some general rules that all medical professionals should abide by:

  • Wear your employer-provided identification badge or card at all times, as mandated by your employer;
  • Unless directed otherwise, stick with a scrubs uniform. Avoid suggestive articles of clothing, athletic wear, shorts, or other casual clothing items. Ensure your clothes are clean and free of wrinkles;
  • Your footwear should be in good condition, appropriate to your workplace, and (perhaps most importantly) comfortable. You’ll be on your feet for a large part of the day, so make sure your footwear is professional as well as functional;
  • Keep your hair, including facial hair, clean and trimmed. If you have long hair, keep it tied back so it won’t impact your ability to fulfill your duties;
  • Visible tattoos and body or facial piercings are generally not accepted at medical facilities.

In addition to maintaining a good appearance, ensure your behavior is professional. Be honest, punctual, and safe when performing your job. Demonstrate respect, a willingness to be a team player, and a commitment to your organization’s overall objectives. Demonstrate personal accountability when it comes to adhering to workplace guidelines. Acting with integrity will leave a lasting, positive impact on everyone you work with.

Practicing Self-Care

A CNA cannot properly care for patients if they do not properly take care of themselves. While it can be easy to dismiss the importance of self-care, it is actually a subject touched upon in many CNA exams.

Like any medical professional, nursing assistants should maintain their own health by taking time to rest and relax, maintain a proper diet, and get regular health check-ups. If they exhibit any symptoms of illness, they should report their condition to their employer immediately, as a contagious disease could pose a risk to others they come into contact with. Self-care will help CNAs maintain their health and, ultimately, better serve the patients they work with.