The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses recognizes the inextricable links among quality of the work environment, excellent nursing practice, and patient care outcomes. In this article, the 6 standards for establishing and sustaining healthy work environments are discussed. With these standards, AACN contributes to the implementation of elements in a healthy work environment articulated in 2004 by the 70-member Nursing Organizations Alliance.

Acute and critical care nurses repeatedly voice grave concern and moral distress about the deterioration of healthcare work environments in the United States. The following cases in point represent countless similar incidents occurring in American hospitals each day, showing the devastating impact of unhealthy work environments on the effectiveness of the American healthcare system.

At 3:30 am in a busy intensive care unit (ICU), a nurse prepares to give insulin to a patient who has an elevated...

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