Know Your Rights as a Nurse

In July 2017, a nurse in Utah was arrested and forcefully handcuffed by a police officer when she refused to draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant. This incident sparked outrage and led to a national discussion about the rights of nurses and medical professionals as well as the importance of protecting patients’ rights.

Fast forward to today, just after the COVID-19 pandemic raged across the world, medical professionals, including nurses, are facing even more pressure and responsibility than ever before. The pandemic significantly impacted the healthcare system, with an increased demand for healthcare services and a shortage of healthcare workers. Nurses were, and still are, on the front lines of this crisis, working tirelessly to care for patients while also dealing with the risks.

The pandemic forced healthcare systems around the world to adapt quickly, with many implementing new protocols and procedures to keep patients and medical professionals safe. Hospitals had to rapidly increase their capacity to care for COVID-19 patients, while also managing other healthcare needs.

The incident in 2017 has provided crucial lessons for medical professionals during times of crisis. It is important to remember that nurses and healthcare professionals have the right to protect themselves and their patients, and that they should not be forced to make decisions that compromise these rights. The pandemic has shown us that we need to support our healthcare workers and give them the tools they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.

Know Your Rights as a Nurse 

Bill of Rights 

In 2001, the American Nurses Association published a Bill of Rights for Nurses to outline the inherent rights that must be afforded to nurses in the workplace to protect them and the patients entrusted to their care. In part, the Bill of Rights contains the following: 

  1. Nurses have the right to practice in a manner that fulfills their obligations to society and to those who receive nursing care. 
  1. Nurses have the right to practice in environments that allow them to act in accordance with professional standards and legally authorized scopes of practice. 
  1. Nurses have the right to a work environment that supports and facilitates ethical practice, in accordance with the Code of Ethics for Nurses and its interpretive statements. 
  1. Nurses have the right to freely and openly advocate for themselves and their patients, without fear of retribution. 
  1. Nurses have the right to fair compensation for their work, consistent with their knowledge, experience, and professional responsibilities. 
  1. Nurses have the right to a work environment that is safe for themselves and their patients. 
  1. Nurses have the right to negotiate the conditions of their employment, either as individuals or collectively, in all practice settings. 

Nurse Practice Act 

Obviously, the above rights are outlined in general terms. Within each state, the Board of Registered Nursing will administer the Nurse Practice Act, a series of statutes enacted at the state level to regulate nursing practices.  All nurses should review the Nurse Practice Act for the state that they are practicing in to ensure an understanding of any specific rules and regulations governing nurses in that state. 

Nurse Abuse and Workplace Violence

Workplace violence against nurses is a critical issue that is frequently under-reported. Nurses are often subject to verbal and physical abuse from patients, family members, and colleagues, which can lead to significant negative consequences for the healthcare industry. Studies have shown that workplace violence in healthcare can dramatically impact the overall quality of care and care outcomes, including increased patient mortality rates and medical errors. 

Furthermore, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has stated that nurse abuse contributes to adverse psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Nurse abuse also results in a significant reduction in nurses’ job satisfaction and organizational commitment, which can lead to high staff turnover rates and further exacerbate the healthcare industry’s staffing shortage crisis. 

Another important takeaway from the Utah incident is how important it is for every nurse to know exactly where to find the policies and procedures manual in the event a similar situation ever arises.