What you need to know about Nursing malpractice and negligence
So you are now proud that finally, after years of struggles and sacrifices, you finally are wearing that all-white ensemble with a white cap you’ve been dreaming about since you were a kid, your hard earned license is in your hands, and after the long wait, you are finally going to go on hospital duty for the first time as a Registered Nurse.
You feel all the euphoria rushing in. After a few months, you are finally starting to get a hang of things, how they are done and what are expected. You’re feeling this “I’m so glad I’m finally a professional nurse” vibe and can’t help the sense of pride trying to emerge from within yourself. However, what you don’t realize is that the confidence of being a nurse and part of the health team has grown so much that you sometimes keep on stepping over boundaries already. You push your limits knowing that you can do most things, however, we fail to remember that there are those responsibilities and duties that are meant for doctors and also those belonging to the scope of nursing. Thus, it comes as a surprise sometimes when unwanted events happen and the next thing we know is that we are already in court and defending ourselves from the mistake we made.
How do we avoid this? What do we really need to know about medical malpractice, even negligence?
Nursing Malpractice and Negligence
Nursing malpractice takes place when a health-care provider deviates from the recognized “standard of care” in the treatment of a patient, which is defined as what a reasonably prudent health care provider would or would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.In most cases, it includes failure to meet a standard of care or failure to deliver care that a reasonably prudent nurse would deliver in a similar situation, but in essence, it boils down to whether the provider was negligent.
It may either be an intentional act or negligence committed by a member of the nursing profession and may cause physical, financial, cognitive, emotional or psychosocial damage to a patient under their care. However, experiencing a bad outcome doesn’t always prove of medical negligence.
Proving negligence involves showing that the nurse disregarded or breached the standard of care that applies to nurses in a similar field. This breach must be the cause of the patient’s injuries, and the injuries must be calculable into a monetary figure.
Usually, this occurs in a hospital setting, but it can also happen in a retirement home, convalescent home, or at a private residence or wherever a nurse works.
Examples of nursing malpractice and negligence are: Failure to take action or make a report when required to do such as when the nurse fails to notify a doctor when a patient has fallen to the ground; Injuring the Patient such as in connection with medical equipment (accidentally piercing the patient with a sharp tool, or accidentally dropping a heavy object on them); and Improperly Administering Medicines, which may involve a range of negligent acts, such as administering the wrong medicine, giving a patient the wrong dose, inserting an IV at the wrong time, etc.
Sometimes, even actions that don’t directly involve contact with the patient such as knocking over important medical equipment needed by the patient might be considered negligence.
Verbal, non-physical acts, though more difficult to prove, may also be considered part of medical practice such as in cases like when the nurse repeatedly speaks harshly to a patient, or is constantly yelling at them. Verbal abuse may result in a claim for infliction of emotional distress however, this may only be proven if verbal abuse resulted in some form of actual physical injury to the patient such as a heart attack.
Avoiding malpractice claims
In order to avoid malpractice claims, the nurse must take the time to understand the legal principles of malpractice, and incorporate these into nursing practice. He/she must be both familiar and compliant with your state’s nurse practice act, the institution’s policies and practices, and applicable standards of care related to the practice area.
The nurse must also perform only those skills that are within his/her practice scope. He/she must also stay current in the nursing field or specialty area by attending in-service programs and other continuing education opportunities. Other tips in preventing yourself from getting caught up in nursing malpractice are that you have to be active in professional organizations, know both your strengths and weaknesses and not accepting assignments if you’re not sure you’re competent to perform them.
Make sure that you attend equipment in-service programs and make sure you know how to detect equipment failures and never make a statement that a patient or family member may construe as an admission of guilt or fault. All patient care activities and communications must also be document since those things that aren’t documented are considered as not done. You also must know how to invoke the chain of command in your facility, and don’t hesitate to do so when needed. Maintaining an open, honest, respectful communication with patients and their families is also a good advice since they are less likely to sue if they believe the nurse has been caring and professional. Also, one must carry his/her own malpractice insurance. That way, if the nurse is named in a suit, he/she will have an attorney dedicated solely to his/her interests. Without this, you will be made to rely on the facility’s attorney, whose first priority is to defend the facility.
So, what are the concerns that need to be thought about when it comes to nursing malpractice? Liability for nursing malpractice depends on many factors such as whether the nurse acted at their own discretion or whether they were simply following instructions from a superior (such as a doctor or surgeon).
For those cases where the nurse acted in violation of hospital policies, it may be possible to sue the nurse directly. But in cases where both the doctor and the nurse acted negligently together, the hospital itself can be held liable.