Press - February 20, 2013

February 20, 2013

Patient's Rights Versus Nurse's Rights

National Black Nurses Association President Addresses Nurse's Rights Article

Contact Information:
Phone: 301-589-3200

Scottsdale, AZ - February 20, 2013 - NBNA President Dr. Deidre Walton responds to a CNN article on nurse's lawsuit against Michigan hospital for race-based request by an infant's parent.

The Patient Bill of Rights states that a patient/family has a right to choose from among qualified providers for their continued care needs and a right to have their preferences respected when they are expressed. The Patient Bill of Rights for the Pediatric Patient recognizes the extraordinary circumstances in the care of infants, child and adolescent patients.

In matters concerning patient's rights, the right to choose one's health care provider stems from empowering consumers to have control over one's own care. However, the Courts say that the right to choose providers does not include race/ethnicity. The US Court of Appeals finds employers that allow this type of patient choice violates the Civil Rights Act.

In Chaney v. Plainfield Healthcare Center, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a healthcare worker's right to a non-discriminatory workplace takes precedence over a patient's demand for a non-African American nursing assistant under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Brenda Chaney was hired by Plainfield as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). (Sara Gronningsater, Discriminatory Patient Choice and the Need for Legal Reforms, JURIST - Dateline, Oct. 17, 2011,

This ruling makes it clear that the patient's right to choose cannot be exercised on basis of race and ethnicity and when there is a choice between patients' rights versus nurses rights, the nurses' civil rights supersedes the patient's rights. Employers may need to expand their cultural competency training to include patients. Working with patients to reform behaviors that create a hostile work environment is one way to towards reforming a patient's behavior. Racism and prejudice still exist in our society. In addition, employers may need to work with their legal and compliance team to raise the awareness of their institutions of the laws that support equality in the workplace. Sara Gronningsater states that "amending the OBRA 87 is one way to deal with the confusion surrounding a patient's right to choose."

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The National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) was organized in 1971 under the leadership of Dr. Lauranne Sams, former Dean and Professor of Nursing, School of Nursing, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama. NBNA is a non-profit organization incorporated on September 2, 1972 in the state of Ohio. NBNA represents 150,000 African American registered nurses, licensed vocational/practical nurses, nursing students and retired nurses from the USA, Eastern Caribbean and Canada, with 90 chartered chapters, in 35 states.