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Who is Responsible for Nursing Malpractice?

Written by Berkowitz

nurse medical malpracticeIn healthcare, the term “malpractice” was originally used to define the negligence of a physician. In the past, there was a clear division between a nurse and a physician. Nurses had structured duties, and were not there to treat, diagnose, or prescribe medication. Instead, nurses simply waited for physician orders.  Today, the role of a nurse has greatly changed. Nurses assume functions that were previously only done by physicians. In some hospitals and clinics, nurses take over examinations, diagnostics, and treatments. Sometimes, this is done without any supervision of a medical doctor.

As nursing has become more sophisticated and specialized, the nurse’s role in patient care has expanded. Some nurses even have prescribing abilities for patients. As a result of this advancement, liability for nursing negligence has shifted from the physician to the nurse.

Professional Liability and Nurse Negligence

Nurses, just like physicians, owe a duty to the patients for whom they care. Nurses are charged with promoting, advocating for, and protecting the health and safety of their patients. A nurse is also responsible and accountable for their own practices, and they must perform those tasks in order to meet their obligations and provide their patients with premium care.

Some nurses are charged with monitoring of patients, and ensuring that they are in good health. For example, a maternity ward nurse is in charge of monitoring the mother and fetal vitals, administering medications, contacting the physician and relaying information, and even performing life-saving maneuvers (when applicable). It is often the responsibility of the care nurse to make crucial assessments of a patient’s status, and communicate those status reports to the treating physician. When there is inadequate communication (or no communication at all), tragedy can follow.

Some nurses have specialized training or experience, which means that they are held to a higher standard of care. Under such standards, nurses with such training are presumed to recognize potential problems, and physicians will rely heavily on the expertise and training of their nursing staff. A nurse will then be liable in a tort claim, if the patient experiences harm or death because the nurse failed to use his or her knowledge, skills, or diligence.

What About the Chain of Command?

In a hospital or clinical setting, there is still a chain of command. Nurses are not the deciding factor in patient care, but they play a critical role. The medical physician or specialist overseeing the patient’s care is also responsible for ensuring that nurses under his or her command provide patients with the right level of care. Therefore, a physician or hospital could also be held liable for the actions (or lack thereof) of the nursing staff.

A nurse who has concerns over a patient’s care or current status has numerous levels in the chain-of-command to go through to seek treatment for the patient, including reporting to a charge nurse, nurse manager, chief of the department, chief of staff, or the director of the hospital. Therefore, if a nurse feels that the treating physician is not providing adequate care, he or she can still report to other individuals in the chain of command until the patient’s safety and health is secured.

Do You Feel That You Were Harmed by Nursing or Medical Malpractice?

If you suffered an injury because of a nurse’s failure to provide you with adequate care, or a medical professional’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation under the law. You will need to first have your case assessed by a Connecticut medical malpractice attorney. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Contact us online to get started.