What Constitutes Nursing Negligence?

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With ever-increasing responsibility of patient care assessment, planning and management being done by critical care nursing, legal claims against nursing staff are increasing. The majority of nursing negligence claims arise from nurses’ failure to perform an assessment or notify the treating physician of critical changes to a patient’s condition. Another common nursing error happens when administering medication, which contributes to 30% of all medical malpractice cases. This form of nursing negligence includes giving the wrong drug, giving the wrong dose of the drug, or using an incorrect method to administer the drug.

Nursing Must Keep Patient’s Safe

Nursing staff has an obligation to advocate for the patient. However, they can’t modify a course set by the physician simply because they hold a different view. Carrying out a physician’s order may insulate a nurse from medical negligence liability, but blindly carrying out such orders may not insulate them from liability when such orders are questionable. There are four elements a patient must establish for nursing negligence:

  1. There was a nurse-patient relationship.
  2. There was a scope of the duty that was owed by the nurse versus other health-care personnel.
  3. There was a departure from “good and accepted practice.” If there is more than one recognized method of care, a nurse will not be held negligent if an approved method was chosen even if that method later turns out to be the wrong choice.
  4. There is a relationship between the act that departed from accepted nursing care and the patient injury.

Interesting Case: Is Hospital Liable for Nurse’s Auto Accident

Under normal circumstances, hospitals are not responsible for injuries sustained or provoked by employees “coming to” or “going home” from work. However, there are some exceptions.

Two deaths resulted from an automobile accident in which a nurse was involved on her way home from a lab where she attended training. Note the nurse attended hospital-required training after completing a 12-hour night shift at the hospital. The nurse was extremely tired and fell asleep at the wheel. She collided with a truck and killed its two occupants. Is the hospital to blame?

The court ruled that the nurse was acting in the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. Both the hospital and the nurse were held liable for damages.

Read more about Medical Malpractice here.


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