Just as patients have a bill of rights when entering a hospital, so should every nurse and member of the medical team across the board. With increasing illness, violence, natural disaster, and terror in the country, hospital staff are inundated with potentially unsafe working conditions. For all who care for patients both directly and indirectly, a bill of rights ensures not only the individual a safer environment, but the patients as well. While many hospitals work hard for and care about their employees, others could still do better.
Right to a Safe Work Environment
Every member of a medical team should feel safe when entering, exiting, and working in and around a hospital. No one should fear the walk from the parking garage to the entrance. If this means investing more in security, so be it.
Right to a Safe Patient Ratio
Nurses, alongside the American Nurses Association, have fought and won in many states for safer nurse to patient ratios. Why should it be any different for a doctor or nurse’s aid? No individual can care for more patients than is humanly possible. Errors occur and lives are sometimes lost when an individual is overwhelmed with a heavy load.
Right to a Safe Number of Work Hours
Many hospitals allow their employees to work an unworkable number of hours putting both the individual and patients at risk. It should be every employer’s responsibility to track and restrict an employee’s hours worked. The same should apply for every doctor, nurse’s aid, pharmacy worker, and lab employee or any employee that is somehow directly involved in patient care.
Right to be Respected
Every single individual that clocks in and out of a hospital and contributes to its every day function deserves equal respect. This includes respect within and among each individual team. A doctor is no more important than the nurse that reports an unstable blood pressure and then carries out his or her order to stabilize said pressure. The nurse is no more important than the nurse’s aid who reports the patient’s unstable blood pressure. Each is dependent on the other.
Right to Speak Up & Be Heard
Each employee should not only have the right to speak up in doubt, but be heard. It is not enough to speak up if those on the receiving end are not listening. Change occurs when there is a good working relationship between employer and employee.
Right to Privacy
Just as a patient has the right to privacy, so should any healthcare worker who is going through something difficult in his or her life. It is not the business of the entire staff why someone is on sick leave nor should it be up for discussion in the break room.
While each member of the healthcare team can contribute to a better working environment, it ultimately lies in the hands of the hospital itself to ensure that the individual is working in a safe, respectful, and professional work environment. A safer environment for the employee makes for a safer environment for the patient.
Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.