As citizens of the United States we are all familiar with The Bill of Rights, and as anyone who works in a hospital knows, there is a Patient's Bill of Rights too. But did you know there is a Nurses' Bill of Rights?
The Nurses' Bill of Rights was adopted by the American Nurses Association (ANA) Board of Directors on June 26, 2001. "The ANA Bill of Rights for Registered Nurses is a powerful statement of the rights that every nurse must have to provide high quality patient care in a safe environment,” said ANA President Mary Foley, in 2001. "We believe that nurses have the right to a safe work environment, to practice in a manner that assures the provision of safe care through adherence to professional standards and ethical practice, and to advocate freely for themselves and their patients."
The Nurses' Bill of Rights dictates:
- Nurses have the right to practice in a manner that fulfills their obligations to society and to those who receive nursing care.
- Nurses have the right to practice in environments that allow them to act in accordance with professional standards and legally authorized scopes of practice.
- Nurses have the right to a work in an environment that supports and facilitates ethical practice, in accordance with the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements.
- Nurses have the right to freely and openly advocate for themselves and their patients, without fear of retribution.
- Nurses have the right to fair compensation for their work, consistent with their knowledge, experience and professional responsibilities.
- Nurses have the right to a work environment that is safe for themselves and for their patients.
- Nurses have the right to negotiate the conditions of their employment, either as individuals or collectively, in all practice settings.
Now, the Nurses' Bill of Rights is not a legal document. It is more of a guide that nurses and health care institutions can use to address workplace expectations and concerns. The Nurses' Bill of Rights is most effective when used in conjunction with the individual state's nurse practice acts and nursing regulations defining the laws related to nursing practice. It's a tool that can help set facility policy for universal topics such as needlestick injuries, workplace violence, and mandatory overtime among many subjects, and it's also a vehicle for dialogue between nursing staffs, management and administration that supports professional practice.
Most nurses will tell you they chose their profession because of a desire to "help others" or to "make a difference" in other's lives, their community or the world. This is a social contract, a commitment to serving society with professional rights and responsibilities. This is also a career choice with public accountability. The Nurses' Bill of Rights, while not a contract, is a mechanism for understanding and addressing the concerns of nurses in their practice environments. Its seven premises are recognized by nurses across the country as necessary for sound professional practice.