Often times when we leave our loved one in the care of a nurse at their home or in a nursing home facility, we trust those caregivers to give our relatives the compassion, care and respect that we give them. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and due to nurse negligence, our loved one can be left with medical complications, injuries and in some situations, the negligence can even lead to a fatality.
Medical malpractice in nursing is very common. According to statistics, nursing malpractice has increased significantly over the past few years.
What Is Nurse Negligence?
The legal definition of negligence when a nurse is being sued for malpractice is “the doing of 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.”
When a nurse is sued for negligence, this is because he or she is accused of doing something or not doing something that caused injury to the patient.
Factors Contributing to the Increase in Medical Malpractice
With the number of nurse negligence cases increasing, there are many factors that contribute to malpractice. These include, but are not limited to:
- Delegating Tasks to Unlicensed Assistants – With hospital downsizing, nurses have a greater workload and will sometimes pass on tasks to assistants who are not licensed to perform said task.
- Early Discharge – Some patients are discharged from the hospital too soon and require more nursing care. A nurse can be sued if he or she does not make appropriate referrals.
- Advances in Technology – With new technology being developed all the time, nurses need to remain up to date with the latest improvements and learn how it affects their duties.
Elements of Medical Malpractice in Nursing
When it comes to medical malpractice, there are four elements that must be satisfied before you can file a lawsuit. These elements are duty, breach of duty, damages and causation.
- Duty – What the nurse owes to the patient, such as a safe environment and interpreting and following physician’s orders correctly.
- Breach of Duty – If the nurse fails to perform their duty properly or does not provide a safe environment for the patient, he or she is in breach of their duty.
- Damages – This is the fallout from the breach of duty. If the patient is injured or experiences further medical complications due to the lack of patient care, these can qualify as damages.
- Causation – One of the most difficult elements to prove, there must be a cause and effect to the injury. If the nurse’s negligence caused direct injury to the patient, causation will be satisfied.
If all four of these elements are met, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim.
Who Is Responsible for Malpractice?
One question that often arises during nursing malpractice cases is who is responsible, the hospital or the attending doctor? The hospital may be responsible if the nurse is an employee, the nurse was performing a job duty when the patient was injured or a doctor was not in control of the nurse.
The attending doctor may be responsible if he or she was supervising the nurse at the time, whether the doctor was present and if he or she had control to prevent the nurse’s negligence.
Meeting with a Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you or a family member was a victim of nurse negligence, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney. A lawyer will be able to consult with you and determine if you have a case.
“Nursing Malpractice.” Coulter Boeschen. NOLO. Web. < www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/nursing-malpractice-30076.html>
Black HC. Black’s Law Dictionary. 9th ed. St. Paul, Minn: West Publishing Company; 1998.
“Understanding Negligence.” Ruth C. Ashley. Critical Care Nurse. Web. < https://ccn.aacnjournals.org/content/23/5/72.full>
“The 4 Elements of Medical Malpractice in Nursing.” Katie Morales. NurseTogether.com 3 Oct 2012. < https://www.nursetogether.com/4-elements-medical-malpractice-nursing>
“Nurses, Negligence and Malpractice.” Eileen M. Croke EdD, Lippincott NursingCenter. < https://www.nursingcenter.com/journalarticle?article_id=423284>