A Biopsy of Nurses’ Rights

Americans believe nurses are more honest and ethical than workers in every other field, according to Gallup. This indicates most people trust them, and nurses work hard to earn this level of trust. Being a nurse requires boundless dedication and compassion. To support them, healthcare employers must create safe workplaces that protect the dignity of nurses and patients alike.

This is why the American Nurses Association (ANA) developed a Bill of Rights for registered nurses. It is a guide that nurses can use to advocate for their well-being and ensure they provide quality care. This article shares how ANA created the nursing Bill of Rights, along with the rights it seeks to provide to nurses.

The Origin of the ANA Bill of Rights for Nurses

The need for a nursing Bill of Rights was identified during an ANA summit in May 2000, according to the American Journal of Nursing (AJN). During the event, a contingent of nurses voiced the need to reduce workplace hazards and elevate industry-wide caregiver performance.

ANA responded by introducing its Bill of Rights the following year. As president of ANA in 2001, Mary E. Foley said the bill would help nurses provide care safely and effectively. “The ANA Bill of Rights is a powerful statement of the rights that every registered nurse must have to provide high-quality patient care in a safe work environment,” she said.

Although it is modeled after the United States Bill of Rights, the ANA version offers no legal protections, according to RN Central. Instead, it is an educational tool that can guide the development of fair policies and safe workspaces.

Best Practices in Nursing: 7 Rights Established by ANA

Consisting of seven tenets, the ANA Bill of Rights for registered nurses seeks to protect:

  1. Nurses’ rights to deliver care that satisfies a commitment to patient well-being: ANA expects nurses to maintain high ethical standards and satisfy each patient’s health needs. Therefore, employers must respect nurses’ rights to make a patient’s well-being a top priority.
  2. Nurses’ rights to work in settings that adhere to industry and legal requirements: Employers must not infringe on nurses’ rights to obey laws. In addition, employers must allow nurses to follow accepted best practices for providing care.
  3. Nurses’ rights to follow established ethical standards: Healthcare employers should encourage nurses to deliver care in a virtuous way that maintains the dignity of patients.
  4. Nurses’ rights to champion themselves and their patients without suffering consequences: Employers must respect nurses’ rights to advocate for the well-being of themselves and their patients. Doing so should not jeopardize a nurse’s job or professional standing.
  5. Nurses’ rights to receive fair wages: Employers should guarantee fair compensation according to a nurse’s qualifications and responsibilities. Wages should also align with standards in their region.
  6. Nurses’ rights to practice in safe environments: Employers must minimize risks for harm to nurses and their patients. This includes abiding by federal and state safety regulations.
  7. Nurses’ rights to voice their desired salary and terms of employment: Nurses should face no repercussions for bargaining their pay, performance metrics, and work hours. Nurses can also bargain with employers on their own or as part of a union.

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Using the ANA Bill of Rights to Improve Workplace Conditions

Although the ANA Bill of Rights for nurses isn’t legally binding, nurses can use the rights it sets forth to press for a safe work environment. This includes ideas for removing barriers that restrict nurses from fulfilling professional obligations to patients.

On its frequently asked questions page, ANA offers ways to leverage the nursing Bill of Rights to create a productive, respectful healthcare environment. Their guidance encourages nurses to:

  • Be mindful of workplace hazards
    While nurses are responsible for caring for patients, healthcare employers are responsible for creating safe conditions for their staff. As nurses carry out treatment plans, they should watch for situations that could lead to injury or illness. This includes avoiding strenuous schedules that increase stress and exhaustion. If nurses do suffer an injury or illness, their employer should offer an ample recovery period for them to heal.
  • Propose improvements to boost productivity and satisfaction
    Nurses can use the ANA Bill of Rights to communicate what they need to perform their jobs effectively. Employers may need nurses to identify inadequate conditions that diminish productivity and job satisfaction. Making a link between safety and morale could further show employers the importance of protecting the rights of a nurse.
  • Tie rights to legal protections
    ANA considered federal and state regulations as they created the nursing Bill of Rights. At the federal level, OSHA regulations require employers to keep workplaces free of certain hazards. And state nurse practice acts often dictate the types of care nurses can provide. By learning federal and state laws, nurses can ensure no one compels them to practice in unlawful ways.
  • Advocate for the delivery of superior care
    Citing the ANA Bill of Rights, nurses can seek the autonomy to provide care according to the health needs of all patients. This includes the right to treat patients without consideration of their status, income, or other non-health factors.
  • Negotiate fair compensation
    To help nurses earn a fair salary, ANA encourages them to investigate regional wages for their field. Nurses can use this data to negotiate raises when pay falls short of local economic standards.

Resources That Bolster Nursing Advocacy and Leadership

ANA does more than advocate for nurses’ rights. The organization also develops standards, guides, and other resources to help nurses meet their obligation to provide quality care.

An important resource is a code of ethics that describes virtuous behavior for nursing professionals. The code includes details that contextualize provisions to ensure nurses act decisively as they treat patients. For instance, the code explains the nurse’s commitment to providing care that respects an individual’s values and treating patients with dignity.

Two additional resources include the Nursing’s Social Policy Statement and Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice. Together, these documents outline a nurse’s societal obligations and the range of care nurses are trained to provide. Reviewing these resources can help nurses advocate for themselves and develop traits for leadership roles in their facility.

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In D’Youville Online’s hands-on MSN program, you’ll take part in 180 hours of leadership practicum to gain valuable nursing management experience. Plus, working nurses can complete their practicum at their current place of employment. This allows you to apply knowledge and skills that the program provides while you’re on the job.