Is it legal for RNs to write verbal orders for patients?

By | 2021-05-07T16:36:56-04:00 May 27th, 2015|1 Comment

Dear Nancy,

At the hospital where I work, nurses write orders for patients returning back to the chronic center. Sometimes the orders are not reviewed until the NP comes in and sometimes days go by before the NP reviews the orders. We write it as a verbal order. This has been an ongoing practice for years. Our computers are not accessible for the NP outside of the center.

I missed a medication. I wrote out all the medications from the discharge orders that I saw. Management and HR are having a meeting about me. They will take action. I have complained about the situation before but no one recollects it.


Dear Bonnie,

The practice you describe is not consistent with what should be done in this type of situation. To begin with, as an RN, and not an advanced practice nurse, you should not be writing orders, categorizing them as verbal orders, and then having the NP sign them days later. This could be seen as unprofessional conduct by your state board of nursing and the board could take disciplinary action against you.

A better approach, based only on what you have included in your letter, might be for the NP to have standing orders in place for those returning to the center and then when the NP does review the specific orders from the discharge sheet, the NP then can write additional orders as needed. It should also be said that the NP’s slowness in reviewing the discharge orders may present legal problems for her before the board as well.

You did not indicate to whom you complained about this practice, but you may want to consider consulting with a nurse attorney or attorney to determine the best path to take to report your concerns internally again, and, if not heeded, to entities outside of the agency, such as the board of nursing and/or licensing agencies.

Although there are no policies or procedures that can always prevent a nurse from missing a medication order, the current scheme of handling the orders certainly invites something like what happened to you to occur.

Regards, Nancy


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About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

One Comment

  1. Avatar
    Michelle Ferraro, RN September 16, 2017 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Hello Nancy,
    The facility where I currently work is trying to initiate a practice where nurses will enter physicians orders and medications upon admission and throughout there stay. The floor which I work on is an acute medical hospital unit in Connecticut. Are nurses under there scope of practice allowed to enter physicians orders and medications in a hospital unit? They would be telephone orders by the physician and then the nurse would enter them in the computerized system. Looking for input regarding this situation.
    Please contact me via phone or email.
    Michelle Ferraro

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