How the Nurses Bill of Rights Protects You

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Aldo Zilli, Esq. Senior Manager, B2B Content, IntelyCare
A group of nurses discuss the nurses bill of rights.

Nurses advocate and protect the rights of patients every day. They often sacrifice their breaks to provide life-saving interventions. They speak up for their patients, which regularly includes voicing unpopular opinions. But who is there to protect nurses?

This is where the Nurses Bill of Rights comes in. We’ll explain what it is, how it can protect you, and other things you should know about your legal rights as a nurse.

What Is the Nurses Bill of Rights?

Unlike the U.S. Bill of Rights found in the Constitution, the Nurses Bill of Rights is not incorporated into the law. Rather, it’s a document created by the American Nurses Association (ANA) that outlines professional standards and serves as a guide for employers, policymakers, contract agencies, and nurses. It aims to support nurse wellness by establishing an understanding between nurses and the organizations for which they work.

The Nurses Bill of Rights was created to protect and support nurses as they navigate situations like unsafe staffing, mandatory overtime, violence, and injuries. It protects the nurse’s expertise as a professional, giving them the authority to fully express their knowledge and scope of practice without fear of retaliation.

Nurses Bill of Rights: Your 8 Rights

Although these rights are not legally binding, the ANA states these rights are nonnegotiables for nurses to be able to meet the complexities of delivering patient care. There used to be 7 rights of nurses, but the list has been updated to feature the 8 below.

1. Nurses have the authority to practice at the top of their license and professional standards in order to fulfill their obligations to society and patients.

This statement acknowledges the balance between nurses’ rights and responsibilities as a profession. It also acknowledges the nursing profession’s agreement with the public to uphold a high standard of care. The purpose of this right is to remove any barriers that would prevent nurses from adequately caring for patients and the community at large.

How does this protect you?

If you are placed in a position where you cannot provide ethical, safe nursing care to your patients, you can refer to this ANA-recognized right.

2. Nurses have the right to ongoing training and professional development. Including nurses in decisions about nursing practice, resources, staffing, and patient safety is important.

Nurses have a unique perspective that no other healthcare professional has. Their voices should be included (and respectfully heard) in healthcare conversations that concern the nursing profession, patients, and staffing. Additionally, in order to provide safe, competent, and evidence-based care, nurses need to be continually educated and trained on best practices.

How does this protect you?

You can use this statement to advocate for continuing education and other learning opportunities from your employer. For example, you could request a paid membership to a nursing journal for your unit or request time in your workweek to complete mandatory continuing education courses.

3. The nursing workplace should promote respect, inclusion, diversity, and equity. Racism should be addressed and dismantled by nursing leaders.

Nurses have the right to be treated equally, fairly, and justly. From the hiring process to nursing assignments, nurses should not be discriminated against or mistreated. This statement calls upon employers to create a positive work environment for nurses, where tangible steps are being taken to disassemble racism.

How does this protect you?

Refer to this statement if you believe you are being treated unfairly or have witnessed discrimination in your workplace. Know that this type of mistreatment is never something you have to tolerate or accept. If you need additional support addressing the concern, try quoting this right to your manager or supervisor.

4. Nurses are entitled to work in places that facilitate ethical care in accordance with the Code of Ethics for Nurses.

The Code of Ethics requires nurses to adhere to certain duties and professional standards based on the principles of autonomy, beneficence, justice, and nonmaleficence. Having workplaces that support nurses in following these ethical guidelines is essential for their professional success.

How does this protect you?

Reference this right if you are being coerced into unethical situations, like a patient assignment you are not equipped for.

5. Nursing work environments should be safe, protect nurses’ well-being, be supportive, and provide tools and resources.

Nurses have the right to work in a safe environment that is free from hazards that could cause harm or death. This includes not only their physical safety, but also their psychological well-being. Nurses should have the necessary tools — such as a computer to access the electronic medical record (EMR) — to perform their job.

How does this protect you?

When advocating for better staffing or nurse-patient ratios, reference this statement. You can also refer to it if your employer is not providing the necessary tools for you to perform your job.

6. Nurses are entitled to freely advocate for themselves and patients without fearing consequences.

Nurses need nonpunitive workplace cultures where they can voice mistakes and errors, challenge outdated practices, and advocate for their patients. This not only creates safe spaces, but also enables others to learn. This can potentially prevent further damage and allow systems to be put in place to prevent a repeat of the same mistake in the future.

How does this protect you?

If you are faced with retribution for speaking up for your patients or reporting unethical practices, refer to this statement.

7. Nurses are entitled to competitive compensation consistent with their clinical knowledge and expertise.

Nurses should be encouraged to negotiate fair wages with their employers and to feel free to seek employment elsewhere if they do not believe they are being compensated at the market rate. Each nurse should be familiar with the average salary for nurses in their area.

How does this protect you?

If you believe you are being paid below the market rate for your specialty, experience, and location, you have the right to negotiate a fair wage. You can refer to this statement during your negotiation discussion for support.

8. Nurses in all practice settings have the right to negotiate terms, wages, and working conditions.

Basically, nurses have the right to discuss the terms of their work agreements, which includes negotiating your salary. You can request to have your schedule, wages, and conditions in writing. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), you may have the right to form or join a nursing union if you want to.

How does this protect you?

If you are being discouraged from joining or forming a nursing union in your workplace, you may refer to this right. It’s important that you investigate your right to join or form a union.

What Are the Rights Of a Nurse In a Hospital?

In addition to the rights outlined in the Nurses Bill of Rights, you may have additional benefits and rights as a hospital employee. Do note that these rights will vary slightly depending on your work agreement, such as if you are working as a 1099 nurse instead of as a W2 employee.

Some basic rights and benefits to expect as an employee include:

  • Health insurance
  • Paid time off
  • Compensation
  • Equal opportunity and fair treatment
  • Meal and rest breaks (as defined by your state)

Legal Rights of a Nurse

While individual states’ laws don’t always address the rights of a nurse, there are a few states that have laws specific to the rights of nurses. For example, many states have made mandatory overtime illegal for nurses.

Other laws are not directed solely at nurses, but they do provide guidance and legal protection that extends to the nursing profession. Some common ones are:

Looking For a Supportive Workplace?

Now that you’ve learned about the Nurses Bill of Rights, you know what kind of workplace you deserve. Need help finding a new workplace that supports you? IntelyCare can help. Start creating your flexible schedule that allows you to work when you want.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but it is not intended to constitute professional legal advice for any particular situation and should not be relied on as professional legal advice. Any references to the law may not be current as laws regularly change through updates in legislation, regulation, and case law at the federal and state level. Nothing in this article should be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.