For 19 years in a row, Gallup polls ranked nurses as the most honest and ethical professionals in the United States. Despite nurses’ popularity, patients can still point their fingers at the nurse on duty when a hospital mistake occurs.
Like all licensed medical professionals, nurses are also at risk of malpractice litigation.
Definition of medical malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider, such as a nurse, fails to provide the standard of care expected in the medical field, resulting in harm to a patient. A jury may scrutinize a nurse’s actions when things go wrong to determine whether the incident constitutes malpractice.
If patients seek to sue a nurse for medical malpractice, they must establish the following elements:
- The nurse had a duty to care for the patient but failed to meet the expected standard.
- The nurse’s breach of duty directly led to patient harm.
- The patient suffered harm or losses because of the nurse’s actions or lack of action.
Types of nurse negligence
Nurse negligence can take various forms, such as administering the wrong medication, not monitoring a patient’s condition properly or not following established protocols. In cases where negligence results in patient harm, a patient or a patient’s family may pursue legal action.
Nurses often play a role in explaining procedures and treatments so that patients can make informed decisions. Thus, failure to provide patients with the necessary information about the potential risks and benefits of medical interventions could also lead to legal consequences.
Nurses need to protect themselves before unfortunate incidents occur by maintaining a high level of professionalism and being able to justify their actions under the threat of lawsuits and possible loss of licensure.