I work as a charge RN and cover breaks and lunches for the other floor nurses. One of the nurses I cover refuses to give me her portable phone and pager when she leaves the floor. If something should happen to one of her patients, and I am not aware of it since she doesn’t give me her phone, etc., how am I legally responsible?
Dear Nancy replies:
Although your colleague does not give you the phone and pager when leaving the floor, this should have no bearing on your knowledge of what is happening to the patient if something occurs. That said, she most probably should give you his phone and pager and should be reported for not doing so if this is required when another covers for a nurse at the facility where you work.
As has been discussed in earlier responses in this column, handoffs of patients to another staff member when leaving the unit cannot be taken lightly. The nurse leaving the patient’s care to another must completely inform the staff member covering for her of any and all essential patient information about the patient’s care. Likewise, the nurse covering for the exiting nurse must ask questions and clarify any concerns the covering nurse has about the patient’s care.
Your first obligation if something happens to one of the patients is to intervene in the “happening” with appropriate medical and nursing care. Contacting the nurse is a second concern once the patient
If the leaving nurse does not share needed information, or the covering nurse does not ask for more information necessary to care for the patient, both could be named in a suit if a patient injury occurred. The standard of care that would be used to evaluate both parties’ behaviors would be what other ordinary, reasonable and prudent nurses would have shared and/or asked in the same or similar circumstances in the same or similar community.