In the health care field, the term malpractice originally encompassed only the negligent wrongs of a physician. A distinct division existed between nurse and physician. The nurse functioned within a more defined framework, simply implementing the physician’s orders. It would have been unprecedented for a nurse to criticize a physician’s order, much less diagnose, treat, or prescribe medication.
The role of the nurse, however, has changed significantly. As nursing has matured into an increasingly advanced, sophisticated, specialized, and independent profession, the nurse’s role in providing patient care has also expanded. This has become an even greater reality in the face of an ever-increasing demand for cost-conscious health care. Today, nurses commonly assume functions previously performed only by the physician. In hospitals and clinics across the country, nurses have assumed the responsibilities such as the actual examination, diagnosis, and treatment of a patient, oftentimes without any direct supervision by a physician.
Nurses caring for patients have a responsibility to be an advocate for the patient. While not bearing responsibility for making medical decisions and judgments, the nurse bears significant accountability for intervening when it appears that decisions and judgments are not consistent with the standard of care.
The legal definition of negligence means “breach of duty”. Examples of breach of duty that would be considered negligence under certain circumstances may include "doing something which a reasonably prudent person would not do, or the failure to do something which a reasonably prudent person would do, under circumstances similar to those shown by the evidence. It is the failure to use ordinary or reasonable care," according to Critical Care Nurse, a journal for high acuity, progressive and critical care.
Standards of care in nursing generally mean those practices that "a reasonably prudent nurse would use." So a good nurse knows and understands ethics in the medical field and strives to provide excellent quality of care in order to avoid negligence. Good nurses are well-informed regarding health and safety laws as well as board regulations. Most nurses are diligent in preventing falls or injuries, being familiar with medications and dosage ranges for their patients, and by practicing good communication with patients and physicians. However, when this doesn’t happen, negligence may occur.
As a registered nurse and former nurse manager, attorney Steven Baker has a unique perspective regarding these cases. He understands the level of medical care that all hospital staff must provide to patients, and he recognizes when the failure to do so leads to injury. He has seen first hand what can happen when a nurse chronically fails to provide standards of care, such as medication errors, failing to follow protocol or orders, or improper use of equipment.
If you find yourself in a situation where you, a family member, or someone you love has been a victim of nursing abuse or negligence, don’t wait. Call the attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Group today for a free consultation.