October 23, 2006, 10:38 am

The Five “Rights” of Nurses



Who snuck the camera into my waiting room?

Actually, we don’t have waits like this. Our patients are so spoiled that I’ve had them complain that it has taken 90 minutes from start-to-finish, including the placing of a splint!


Besides, what kind of waiting room is this?

No decorations? No artwork? No TV? Everyone in a straight line?

This room needs some serious work on its Feng Shue.


First of all, I want to send out kudos to Monika at Becoming A Nurse for, well, becoming a nurse !!! I’ve moved her blog from the “Student” to the “Nurses” section!

There is a new blog under “Medical Bloggers of Interest”! Check out The Foot Blog. It’s the first blog I’ve seen by podiatrists and it’s very well done.

Having a husband with diabetes and a daughter running cross-country, we have been dealing with feet on a regular basis, so running across this blog was very timely!


All new nursing students learn the “Five Rights of Medication Administration”.

Later, they learn to use new technologies and systems to enhance those “rights”, but the basic concepts are used to help the students provide safe patient care.

It occurred to me that perhaps there should be basic “rights” for nurses.

In fact, there should be five of them.

So, here they are, as proposed by yours truly:

The Five Rights of Nurses

1. The Right To A Quality Nursing Education, Unimpeded By Lack of Access

All qualified applicants have a right to a nursing education. The nursing shortage is acute. The future nurses are there, but we are losing them to other professions due to a lack of space in existing programs, exacerbated by a shortage of nursing instructors.

If there was ever a program to invest in, the nursing profession is it. The health care delivery system in this country would collapse without nurses.

Money should be provided at both the community college and state university level to

  • Expand exisiting programs to accomodate additional students.
  • Provide a financial incentive to lure the best and the brightest into becoming nursing professors. You can’t educate until you have the educators in place.


2. The Right To Nursing Leadership

Nurses have the right to expect their leadership to:

  • Focus on (and fight for) the basic problems of education access and nurse recruitment before they debate advanced practice entry levels and how many doctorates are necessary in one profession.
  • Maintain clinical skills so they understand what the rank-and-file nurses in this country face on a day-to-day basis.
  • That means coming out of their office, putting on a set of scrubs and actually spending time with those whom they profess to lead. Once, twice a year. That isn’t asking too much.
  • We all started at the bedside. That is where basic nursing care is taught and perfected. It is where the majority of nurses still remain.
  • Treat basic nursing with the respect and attention it deserves, not as a stepping stone to advanced practice away from the beside.

If you are in a nursing leadership position, ask yourself why bedside nursing is no longer your “thing”. Then go to work on fixing the problem.


3. The Right To Give Excellent Patient Care

This includes:

  • Adequate staffing, with the expectation that their employers actively recruit and provide incentives to maintain the best staffing possible, going above and beyond just the basics required by law.
  • Access to the latest equipment, adequate supplies and access to inservice education provided equally to all three shifts.
  • Employer paid required classes. You required to have ACLS, PALS or TNCC for employment? The employer should be providing those classes or paying for them from another provider.

This also means that there is adequate ancillary staff so that nurses:

  • Are not: (1) answering phones (2) cleaning wastebaskets (3) being used as phlebotomists or EKG technicians or (4) Passing or cleaning up trays because these other departments have “downsized”
  • Are available for hands-on patient assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation; in other words, they are able actually practice their profession. You know, the Nursing Process? What a novel concept!


4. The Right To A Collegial Work Environment

This means the right to work without fear of, or exposure to, verbal abuse from physicans of any specialty.

  • It is understood that disagreements will occur and that medicine/nursing are stressful professions. Tempers will flare, words will be said and apologies will be made. That’s life.
  • This “right” covers a more toxic type of behavior. Specifically: screaming, yelling, throwing objects, or other threatening behaviors occuring in the presence of other professional colleagues or in front of patients (including within their hearing).

The nurse has a right to expect that their employer and the Chief of the Medical Staff make available to nurses a recourse to address this behavior, including some form of sanction leveled against the perpetrator. This tends to be repetitive behaviour.

This is where hospital employers fall short.

A blind eye is turned because the doctor is the “rainmaker”, to use a legal term; they bring in the bucks.


5. The Right To Organize

All nurses should have the right to organize under a collective bargaining agreement.

Ideally, you will have nurses representing nurses.

No matter how supportive, how wonderful, how progressive a hospital administration is, they will give the absolute minimum amount of pay and benefits that they can get away with.

Nurses, are a big hit on their “bottom line”. They’re numbers. They on the “payout” side of the ledger. To the number crunchers, they are a paycheck.

Nurses need someone protecting their rights, their pay and their benefits.

Oh, I know the non-organized hospital nurses make close to what unionized nurses make, but it is never more! You’ll get paid just what the facility needs to give you to stay competitive.

(As an example: California nurses are now the highest paid nurses in the country – as far as I am aware. It isn’t an accident. I’m represented by CNA.

I don’t agree with everything the California Nurses Association does. In fact, I’m totally opposite them on about 90% of their political agenda.

But…the reason I make what I do, my job is protected, there are mandated staffing ratios and my benefits are solid can be directly traced to the fact that they are my collective bargaining agent.

So,I pay those dues willingly and designate them to the “General Fund” so they won’t be used to fund propositions or other political activities to which I am opposed. )

All nurses should have the right, by vote, to engage in collective bargaining.


And there you have it.

The Five “Rights” of Nurses as I see them.

Maybe I’ll take on the Five “Rights” of Doctors next time. I had a few thoughts pop into my head on their behalf.

ER secretaries, too. Now there is a topic that needs to be written!


  • jen

    October 23, 2006 at 11:36 am

    sounds great!! I just want the right to urinate once during a twelve hour shift, then i’ll be able to move on to other agendas.

  • Janet

    October 23, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    Amen, Kim! You said it!

  • Al Kline DPM

    October 23, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    Thx Kim for the plug. I’ll be sure to add some diabetic relavent material to the blog as I go.

    Al Kline DPM

  • PaedsRN

    October 23, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    Pardon me sister, while I take your temperature.

    Yes, an oral temp will be quite sufficient.

    Ah. It’s just as I thought. You have blog-induced caffeine-mediated hyperthermia, or BICMeH. Generally we find this syndrome manifests itself following a particularly lengthy stay in Starbucks with more than two or three blog carnivals to publish, often accompanied by long hours at work.

    Step away from the laptop. Sloooowly. Keep your hands where I can see ’em.


  • TuxBaby

    October 23, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could work in a nursing utopia where all these rights could be guaranteed???

    I am working on my little end of Right #1 with my current job. Hopefully I can help increase the number of nurses who successfully finish nursing school.


  • S. R.

    October 23, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    Where does not being worked into a nub fall into those rights? How about having to go to chintzy classes in the middle of the afternoon when you worked the 12-hour shift graveyard?

    I can’t understand not being about to urinate during a shift. That’s on you. You gotta make time for something like that, Maslow and all. I work in a very busy ward with very acute patients and I’ve never ran into that.

  • […] Would like to thank the Health Care Law Blog and Emergiblog for its mention of us on Grand Rounds!  […]

  • apgaRN

    October 24, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    As always, Kim… well put! Unfortunately, I CAN relate to the pee thing. Sometimes there is too much else going on. Not how it should be, just how it is.

  • Jodi

    October 25, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    I’m actually printing this out.

    Now I need to figure out who to show it too. (My boss maybe?)

    Thanks for writing it! (and you will get full credit)

  • Unimum

    October 27, 2006 at 11:17 pm

    Amen to the 5 rights….I have to say, after completing my degree in Australia (this week actually) the universities I have had experience with are seeking more applicants, lowering fees and increasing the numerical entrance rank to get into the degree but I see problems with the abilities of uni’s to support these new students through the turbulant journey ahead of them. There are physical problems with campuses not being equipped to cope with such an increase in numbers, there is also not enough support mechanisms in place. I can only hope that the Governments are actively addressing these issues as I am confident that this crisis is not going anywhere anytime soon.

  • Jo

    November 2, 2006 at 6:47 am

    I am so printing this out and putting it up on the board at work.

  • beajerry

    November 2, 2006 at 8:23 am

    I’d like the right to clone myself into 6 people each shift.

  • shrimplate

    November 4, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    The right to organize is the one that could most likely get those other rights happening.

  • Markie

    November 8, 2006 at 9:37 pm


    This is my first visit to your blog — I’m still in nursing school but tripped over it in a Change of Shift link.

    Just one suggestion for your list (maybe in #1, possibly #5?): not having to be abused by burned out nurses when doing a clinical rotation as a student.

    As a male student and minority in nursing I’m the target of much ire and not just a little rudeness from older nurses flexing their muscles. But I’m not the only one, the female nursing students receive enough of it too.

  • Dianne

    November 15, 2006 at 8:45 am

    Thank you for your thoughtful approach to the rights of nurses. I am an educator, and will be providing this list to my senior students, so that hopefully they will be willing and able to stand up for their rights.

  • Hedden

    January 11, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    I can relate to Markie, though I am not a male. Nurses can be ruthless, but there are a few shining stars of what nursing is about that are willing and excited to share their knowledge and expertise. Hang in there. Don’t let those burnt out or “for the money” nurses keep you from nursing. The end will justify the means.


    April 10, 2007 at 4:50 am

    Trying to advocate on behalf of patients and fighting for their rights we forget our rights all the time.

    so bravo kim!!!!

    u remindede me my rights.


  • » grand rounds. Emergency Department

    May 21, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    […] The Five Rights of a Nurse. “I’m sending in a post I am particularly proud of, although I can’t really tell […]

  • […] Emergiblog – The Five Rights of Nurses […]

  • Edwina Pereira

    January 22, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Thank you. Am using these points in a presentation on Nurses Rights here at Bangalore.

    All the best

  • benjamin

    April 23, 2008 at 6:27 am

    thanks for this nice blog, i have always believe that taking care of you the nurse would translate into taking better care of your patients. And taking care of your self fall so well into Kim’s nurses right. I enjoyed reading this blog,

  • asma malik

    January 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    nice blog thanks,it explain nurses rights im a nurse graduate from pakistan working in saudi arabia from more than 5 years cant live n work here …….. for the sake of women right nurses right if any help i can receive regarding work in other country ill be thankful


    January 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks kim for dishing out this 5 most special rigts for nurses…i.m just a new kid on the block but i think you have hilighted the most important aspect that should be known by other professions to treat us nurses with dignity not as their slaves.

  • mary ann R.N.

    April 2, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Can the Activities director in the assisted living facility where I work require me to fill in for her on her day off For example setting up a video for residents to watch. Doing this takes me away from my sickest and most needy patients. They are away from my view and hearing as this video area is in another part of the building although attached to the main area
    ps I’m the only nurse on duty when this situation arises

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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