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Taking a Look at Patients’ Rights

Respecting patient rights is crucial to establishing trust between patients and health care providers. Protecting patient rights is also important to achieve positive health outcomes for patients.

Nurses play a critical role in protecting patient rights. Experienced nurses who actively pursue nursing continuing education courses are better equipped to fulfill their duties to patients to protect their rights.

A cross-sectional study observed 156 randomly selected nurses who answered a questionnaire to determine how aware they were of patient rights. The study found that 39% of nurses had a medium level of awareness, while 2.5% of them had a poor grasp of patient rights.

Today’s post will discuss patients’ rights to help you better understand your obligation to patients to protect their rights as you progress in your career.

Patient Rights in the Healthcare System

This section of the post will give you a brief overview of some of the most important patient rights you need to be aware of as a professional nurse.

1. The Right to be Treated with Respect

Health care professionals must treat all their patients with respect, regardless of their health problems or their means. Being treated without discrimination and with respect is one of the fundamental rights all patients have, and healthcare providers have a duty to fulfill that obligation.

2. The Right to Privacy of Medical Records

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 outlines several crucial patient rights, including the right to privacy. It defines who may obtain patient records besides the patients and what reasons qualify to obtain patients’ medical records. Improper access to patient records violates patient rights. The wrong person accessing a patient’s medical records can result in negative consequences for patients.

3. The Right to Obtain Medical Records

The HIPAA Act also gives patients nationwide the right to obtain their medical records. It includes everything from their test results to doctors’ notes and other documents related to their experience with healthcare providers.

4. The Right to Refuse Treatment

Patients capable of making sound decisions may refuse treatment. Patients who make such decisions when they are sound of mind through written documents have the right to have their desire to refuse treatment respected by care providers. Care providers must ensure that the patient refusing treatment understands the possible risks of refusing treatment and the benefits of receiving the treatment.

However, there may be a few exceptions to patients’ right to refuse treatment. The law has established that adults can refuse treatment, even if it is a life-sustaining treatment. However, legal guardians and parents cannot make the decision to refuse such treatment for their children.

5. The Right to Choose Treatment

Health care providers must inform their patients of all the treatment options available to them to ensure that sound-of-mind patients can choose the treatment based on what they feel is right for them. As a nurse, it is your duty to help the patient understand the different treatments and what to expect to ensure that the patient can make a more well-informed decision regarding their treatments. The right to choose treatment is closely related to the right to informed consent.

No doctor, nurse, or other health care provider can perform a procedure or prescribe a treatment without asking the patient or their guardian for consent. “Informed consent” is a document medical practitioners are required to provide to patients, their guardians, or any other person responsible for making decisions for the patient. The document should offer a complete and clear explanation of the risks and benefits associated with various treatments before the patient is given said treatments.

7. The Right to Make End-of-Life Care Decisions

Each state throughout the country has different laws and regulations regarding how patients may make and record the decisions regarding how their lives will end. It includes the use of ventilators or the use of feeding tubes, among other life-preserving procedures. Nurses must ensure that they are aware of all the rights their patients have to ensure that they can take appropriate measures to protect their rights.

Nursing Ethics and Patient Rights

Nurses must follow a code of ethics, which reinforces their roles in protecting patient rights. The Code of Ethics for Nurses by the American Nurses Association (ANA) has multiple provisions that cover the aspect of patient rights, including:

  • Provision 1: The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person.
  • Provision 2: The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community, or population.
  • Provision 3: The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.
  • Provision 4: The nurse has authority, accountability, and responsibility for nursing practice; makes decisions; and takes action consistent with the obligation to provide optimal patient care.
  • Provision 8: The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy, and reduce health disparities.

The role nurses play in protecting patient rights is clear and a critical part of enjoying a successful career as a nurse. As a nurse, you are uniquely positioned to ensure that patients’ rights are protected thoroughly in the health care system.

Health care laws have seen several changes over the years, and nurses must stay atop the changes to ensure that they are aware of what they can and cannot do in their capacity to protect patients’ rights. It is important for registered nurses to focus on expanding their skillsets by taking nursing continuing education courses that can better prepare them for the ongoing challenges as health care professionals.

If you are a nurse looking for online CEUs, Fast CE For Less offers a wide range of continuing education courses for nurses you can take to add to your skills, enhance your qualifications, and enjoy greater levels of success in your nursing career. Visit www.fastceforless.com to look for affordable online CEUs you can complete as you progress in your career.

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