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Chances are you’ve heard the term “malpractice” before, even if just on a television commercial. While you might be familiar with the term, do you know what it actually means, and who is ultimately responsible?

Nursing malpractice is confirmed by determining four specific elements of an alleged incident: duty, breach of duty, damages/injuries and causation.  This could be the result of the nurse administering the wrong medication or failing to follow the doctor’s orders, or any action that causes harm to a patient as a result of breach of duties. Malpractice can happen as a result of various situations. Below is a list of the most common instances where malpractice occurs.

Failure to Act

In most cases, a nurse is the main point of contact for patients. When a patient experiences a sudden emergency, the nurse is responsible for taking the required, immediate steps appropriate for the situation within his/her scope of practice.  This may include administering the necessary medication or calling for support and help.

A nurse is also responsible for monitoring a patient’s condition and reporting if they notice anything of concern. If a nurse neglects to monitor a patient or to report any significant changes in the patient’s condition to the physician, and the patient is adversely affected as a result, they may be liable for malpractice.

Medication Errors

It is the nurse’s duty to administer medication to patients per doctor’s orders. When administering medications, it is the duty of the nurse to follow the five “rights”:  the right patient, the right medication, the right dose, the right route (e.g., oral VS injection) and the right time.   If a nurse fails to accurately administer medication and the patient is injured or has an adverse reaction, the nurse can be held liable for their actions.  

The Hospital

There are several factors that determine if a hospital is liable for the nurse’s actions. A hospital may be financially and legally responsible if any of the following are true:

  • The nurse is an employee of the hospital
  • The nurse does not have a valid license, or their license has expired
  • The nurse was assigned to fulfill a job duty when the patient was injured
  • The hospital failed to appropriately train the nurse
  • The hospital failed to have the appropriate policies and procedures

Because a vast majority of nurses are employees of hospitals, in many malpractice cases the hospital is also considered a defendant.

The Doctor on Duty

As in Nursing malpractice, Medical malpractice must be validated by researching four specific elements of an incident.  If it is determined that a breach of duty (e.g., failure to order anti-hypertension meds to a patient with high blood pressure) resulted in harm to a patient (a stroke), then the doctor may be sued for malpractice.

Role of the Certified Legal Nurse Consultant

Lawyers are inundated with potential clients who claim to be victims of malpractice.  The Certified Legal Nurse Consultant is an expert at researching medical records to determine if the malpractice allegations are valid.  If the nurse or doctor is not guilty of the four elements noted above, then the case does not have merit, and the lawyer can avoid wasting money and time by refusing to accept the case.  Kogan Legal Nurse Consultants, with more than 30 years of nursing experience can save lawyers much valued time and money.  As the medical insider on a litigation team, Kogan Legal Nurse Consultants delivers the cost-effective medical expertise to uncover the crucial facts from medical records that can be the difference between winning and losing malpractice cases.