All nurses should know their state's laws and ethics, as well as understand how not obeying them  is going to affect their profession. Please take a second and read these five most common legal issues to avoid lawsuits and liability

1. Signatures are crucial

When a physician or other health care provider orders a procedure be done to a patient, it is the nurse’s responsibility to obtain an informed consent signature. This means that the patient:

  • Understands the procedure and the alternative options
  • Has had a chance to ask the provider any questions about the procedure
  • Understands the risks and benefits of the procedure
  • Chooses to sign or not sign to have the procedure performed.

If the nurse does not obtain signatures, both the nurse and the operating provider can be held liable for damages incurred.

2. Documentation

First and foremost, pay attention to your nursing documentation! Make sure it tells the story, discusses your findings, your assessment and your plan. Whoever is reading the note should be able to understand how you got to your proposed plan and be able to pick up where you left off, making any necessary adjustments.

Don’t assume that someone can read your mind and don’t assume you will remember 1, 6 or 52 weeks later. While not everyone is able to complete each and every chart in the room before the patient leaves, make serious attempts at getting your charting done as soon as it’s feasible. Memory fades over time. 

3. Report it or tort it

Allegations of abuse are serious matters. It is the duty of the nurse to report to the proper authority when any allegations are made in regards to abuse (emotional, sexual, physical, and mental) towards a vulnerable population (children, elderly, or domestic). If no report is made, the nurse is liable for negligence or wrongdoing towards the victimized patient.

4. Confidentiality 

According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the nurse is responsible for keeping all patient records and personal information confidential and only accessible to the immediate care providers,  If records get out or a patient’s privacy is breached, the liability usually lies on the nurse because the nurse has immediate access to the chart.

5. Medication Errors

Believe it or not, medication errors continue to be quite common in the nursing practice. In fact, according to the 2009 NP claims study, more than 80% of medication errors are prescription-related and 1/3 of those involved prescribing the WRONG medication. (Nurses Service Organization, 2011). It is the nurse’s responsibility to follow the five “rights” of medication administration: right dose, right drug, right route, right time, and right patient. If a nurse pays attention to those details, the likelihood of a medication error is greatly reduced, thereby saving the nurse and health care institution from liability for damages.

If you ever find yourself in any kind of Legal issues please contact Illinois Nurse Defense Attorney James Goldberg at 312-735 -1185 or visit his website for more information.