Know Your Rights as a Nurse

It was an incident that sent shockwaves through everyone in the medical community, the July 2017 physical arrest of a nurse in Utah. To recap, an ER nurse was ordered by a law enforcement officer to perform a blood draw on a car accident victim.

Rightfully, the nurse refused because no warrant was presented and she was protecting the rights of her patient. She pulled out the policy manual, called her supervisor on speakerphone, and proceeded to inform the officer that she was unable to comply until a warrant was presented. Everything she did was according to procedure, but the officer forcibly arrested her anyway.

In October of that year, the nurse’s lawsuit against Salt Lake City and the university that runs the hospital was settled for $500,000, and the officer involved in the incident was terminated. The tragic circumstances surrounding this proves how important it is for nurses and other medical professionals to know what their rights and responsibilities are in all aspects of patient care.

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.
  2. Nurses have the right to practice in environments that allow them to act in accordance with professional standards and legally authorized scopes of practice.
  3. 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.
  4. Nurses have the right to freely and openly advocate for themselves and their patients, without fear of retribution.
  5. Nurses have the right to fair compensation for their work, consistent with their knowledge, experience, and professional responsibilities.
  6. Nurses have the right to a work environment that is safe for themselves and their patients.
  7. 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.

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.

Do you know where to find the policy manual for your unit or facility? Do you have emergency numbers readily available in case you need to reach a supervisor or manager in a crisis situation?

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