I am a nurse manager of LPN case managers in a foster care agency. A child died as a result of an LPN not following up on important blood work. The physician treating the patient at a clinic requested the lab work several times, but it was not received until six months later and the child died. Are there ramifications for me as the nurse manager even though I was unaware of the situation until after the child died? Could I lose my license because of this incident?
Nancy Brent replies:
There are many legal issues at play in the situation that you described. These issues are best answered by a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who defends healthcare professionals in malpractice and negligence cases. If you have purchased your own professional liability insurance, contacting the insurance company for guidance in this situation and notifying them of the situation and the possibility that you may be involved in a lawsuit is a must. Lawyers working for the professional liability insurance company then can represent you should that need arise.
Nurse managers can be included in a lawsuit alleging professional negligence if the nurse manager knew or should have known about the situation that is the focus of the case. This is a standard legal principle in such cases. Actual knowledge is not always required.
Ones license also can be disciplined when a patient dies if there was a violation of the state nurse practice act and/or rules by a nurse licensee. For example, was the management of the LPNs by the nurse manager consistent with standards of practice for nurse managers? And how, if at all, should the nurse manager have intervened in the situation to get the blood work results to the physician earlier? Again, if you have your own professional liability insurance, it might provide you with an attorney in licensure matters.
Your attorney also can discuss the possible licensure ramifications with you during the consultation. If he or she does not handle licensure matters, retain an attorney versed in that field who can work with your counsel in the professional negligence lawsuit that could arise.