Could a nurse be liable for an incorrect prescription being given to a patient?

By | 2015-09-15T20:33:38-04:00 September 16th, 2015|3 Comments

Dear Nancy,

What is a nurse’s professional risk when calling in a prescription to a pharmacy, per physician’s orders, that a patient picks up without a paper prescription upon discharge from the hospital? What if the nurse calls in a prescription, per physician’s orders, but the patient has a script in hand upon arrival at the pharmacy? Would a nurse be held liable if an error were to occur in the delivery of the correct prescription to the patient at the pharmacy?



Dear Marsha,

It is fairly common these days for a nurse to call in prescriptions ordered by a physician or advanced practice nurse for a patient being discharged. This happens especially when the facility does not have a system in place where the healthcare provider ordering the prescriptions directly emails the prescriptions to a pharmacy for pick-up by the patient or the patient’s family.

By the way, the electronic method of emailing prescriptions is not foolproof either. The person emailing — whether it’s a physician, a resident or and advanced practice nurse — may click on the wrong medication to be filled. Or, if a cut-and-paste format is used for medications, the wrong medication could be sent to the pharmacy if this list is not up-to-date and is simply used from one hospital visit to the next.

You are right that calling in prescriptions may raise concerns that an electronic system or handwritten scripts do not raise. However, documentation of the call to the pharmacy and what was said, based on the physician’s orders, is one way to avoid liability as much as possible.

Discuss this concern with your nurse manager if you think you might be able to change the current procedures for contacting the pharmacy with prescriptions for discharged patients. Raising your concerns with risk management might also be an option.



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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.


  1. Avatar
    Mary Shaver November 14, 2018 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    My son was in a hospital for Mental Health and the nurse upon discharge of my son handed him a sealed bag with meds for another person for meds to be exact what can he do

  2. Avatar
    Gina Meeking March 8, 2019 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Hello I received a call from my doctor office stating I altered my prescription. Upon leaving my doctor office my prescription refill was for 1. I noticed it and gave it to my nurse. She noticed the mistake and marked it out and change it to 3 also writing “three” next to it! also she initiated it. I received a call from my doctor office stating the my pharmacy notice the alter prescription and faxed it to my doctor office. The nurse that alter my prescription is stating she didn’t do it. My doctor basically accused me of the altering of my prescription and said I can not receive anymore of my prescription. At this point I’m in disbelief that my nurse would lied on me! It’s been bothering me so much. It’s so so wrong. Things could have been horrible if the pharmacist wanted to get law involved. Defamation of character is how I’m feeling! Oh yea! I been on my medication for a long time! So the doctor said no more! I’m having real bad migraines and stress of this. I know there’s probably nothing I can do! The medication is Tramodal

  3. Avatar
    CHP June 21, 2019 at 7:35 pm - Reply

    Hand writing analysis would cost dollars but may save ur reputation.

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