October 14, 2009 | | Comments 3
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Nurse liability: Keeping you and your staff educated and aware

As a nurse manager, you have many legal concerns. Not only must you be concerned with your own liability, but you must also stay alert about the liability risks of the nurses working under your supervision.

Although some liability risks are universal to all nursing practice areas, certain clinical settings also generate liability risks. As the nurse manager, being knowledgeable and educating your staff about universal liability risks and those specific to a practice area will increase the quality of care provided and reduce liability.

Some universal liability risks include the following:

  • Failure to communicate patient’s condition to other healthcare professionals
    • While a patient is hospitalized, his/her condition must be monitored continually and evaluated. Pertinent physical findings must be reported promptly to the healthcare professionals involved in the patient’s care.
  • Failure to communicate with the patient
    • Treatment decisions are partly based upon the information that healthcare professionals gather from patients. Failing to communicate adequately with patients and to gather relevant information may result in liability for adverse patient outcomes.
  • Failure to ensure patient safety
    • Ensuring patient safety is a monumental duty that includes, but is not limited to, protecting patients from falls, injuring themselves or others, faulty equipment, unsafe conditions, and unsafe persons.
  • Medication errors
    • One of a nurse’s first lessons is to check the “five rights of medication administration” before administering a patient’s medication. These include the right patient, medication, dose, route, and time. When these “five rights” are checked prior to medication administration, liability risks are greatly reduced. However, the duty to verify them makes defending a medication error difficult. Therefore, in medication administration, don’t let the “five rights” become the “five wrongs.”
  • Improper use of equipment and technological advances
    • The healthcare industry has emerged as one of the leaders in technological advances. Even though these new technological advances contribute significantly in the treatment of patients, they create additional liability for nurses. In addition to providing patient care, nurses must know and understand how to operate many machines and devices within their unit.

Source: A Practical Guide to Legal Issues: Skills for Nurse Managers

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Sarah Kearns About the Author: Sarah is an Editorial Assistant in the patient safety group at HCPro, Inc. She contributes to two monthly newsletters; Briefings on the Joint Commission and Briefings on Patient Safety, and manages four e-zines; Accreditation Connection, AHAP Staff Challenge, Nurse Manager Weekly, and Healthcare Training Weekly. She also helps research new products for the patient safety and nursing market. She graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2008 where she earned her bachelor's degree in English.

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  1. I am glad that I have found this site,thanks for the reminders, however safety in ambulatory care is hardly ever addressed.
    G.Stephens, Nurse Manager in ambulatory Care.

  2. I whant to know: if a nurse follows hospital guidelines and doctor’s orders but the patient’s still sustains an injury due to the nurse’s action’s,who is to be held responsible.

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  1. From Are nurses liable or the staffing agency or the hospital? | Travel Nursing Blog on Dec 16, 2009

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