Protect your nursing practice with these legal tools

By | 2021-05-07T15:25:56-04:00 June 12th, 2017|8 Comments

25 legal tools no nurse should be without

Which specialty should you consider? Do you want to teach or practice? In which practice setting do you think you could best contribute your skills and expertise? As a nurse, you have countless decisions to make to develop your career, and you can always change your path. What should not change is how resolute you are in protecting your license and your practice.

An unpleasant constant for nurses throughout their careers is that there are potential liabilities linked to their profession. A nurse can be named as a defendant in a professional negligence case, for instance, or accused of violating the nurse practice act or its rules, defaming a fellow worker, breaching a contract of employment or breaching a patient’s confidentiality. But there are legal means that can help protect you and your practice. Here are my tips for avoiding potential liability:

Avoid the legal pitfalls — obvious and otherwise

1) Know your state nurse practice act and its rules and review them on a regular basis.
2) Stay informed by attending board of nursing meetings.
3) Purchase and maintain your own professional liability insurance policy.
4) Remain clinically current in your chosen specialty.
5) Participate in research or design and carry out your own research study to help support needed changes in patient care. This can reduce your liability when providing care to patients.
7) Be mindful at all times when providing patient care or preparing and administering medications.
8) Participate in continuing education programs in nursing in order to maintain continued competency in the areas in which you practice.
9) Enroll in an advanced degree nursing program to increase your ability to use critical thinking and problem solving skills in your practice.
10) Maintain a general knowledge of law applicable to nursing practice and your practice specifically.
11) Maintain open lines of direct and honest communication with nursing and other healthcare team members, patients and patients’ families.
12) Utilize a risk management approach when providing care to patients to decrease risk of injury to or death of a patient.
13) Know your employee handbook, review it regularly for changes and follow your employer’s adopted policies and procedures.
14) If you’re a student or a faculty member in a nursing education program, learn your rights and responsibilities as stated in your faculty and student handbook.
15) Know your protections under workers’ compensation laws and report any injury in the workplace as required under the law.
16) If you’re a union member, evaluate your benefits and rights and use the bargaining agreement’s protections, as needed.
17) Uphold safety requirements in the workplace for yourself and patients.
18) Adhere to your facility’s chain of command when reporting patient care issues.
19) Join and become an active member of professional nursing associations that affect your specific practice.
20) Uphold the American Nurses Association’s and other professional nursing associations’ code of ethics.
21) Observe age-old, good documentation principles when recording patient care.
22) Participate in the political process to shape legislation and elect legislators who support nursing.
23) If you’re an advanced practice registered nurse, order medications, treatments and other healthcare regimens within your scope of practice.
24) Avoid using bullying, intimidating or other behaviors that are not respectful of patients or fellow staff.
25) Retain a nurse attorney or attorney as soon as possible whenever you face potential legal liability, require a consultation on a practice matter or when concerns about your practice arise.


Courses Related to ‘Protecting Your Practice’

CE548: Protect Yourself (1 contact hr)
The goal of this nurse practice act continuing education module is to enhance nurses’ knowledge of nurse practice acts and how they define professional practice and nurses’ rights and responsibilities as practitioners.

WEB318: Eagle Eye: Exercises in Reducing Medication Errors (1 contact hr)
This webinar will engage members of the interprofessional healthcare team in detecting, reporting and preventing medication errors. By participating in an active discussion of various types of errors from different healthcare settings, participants will be able to better understand how their roles interplay in the medication use process and gain foresight into where and how errors may occur.

WEB296: Nurse Bullying: Stereotype or Reality? What Can We Do About It? (1 contact hr)
The goal of this presentation is to discuss bullying behaviors with regard to nursing. Participants will learn what bullying is and about contributing factors to negative behavior in general that may be seen within a nursing or clinical environment, among other lessons.


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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.


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    David Kimani June 14, 2017 at 6:37 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this great article.

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    Stephanie June 17, 2017 at 3:04 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing. I have been thinking I need to get my own liability insurance. Where can a nurse get it?

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    maryjane June 20, 2017 at 7:13 am - Reply

    this is great.

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    Eve Rajula June 28, 2017 at 7:20 am - Reply

    Indeed legal protection on conscience is very important in ones professional work. However, very few nurses, if any in my country take insurance cover for professional negligence. This article is very educative and a must read for all practicing nurses, both in clinical setting and in teaching.

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    David Kimani June 29, 2017 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Quite enlightening and informative article.

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    Ellen Martin July 12, 2017 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Many professional associations have an option to purchase malpractice insurance often at a discounted rate. Be sure the policy includes license defense coverage. Even though most nurses never get reported to their licensing board, there is always the possibility of involvement in an unfortunate incident and even false allegations.

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    Blanca July 25, 2017 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Very good article. Could you share a liability insurance that is good to get.

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    Founcia Martin December 6, 2017 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    I need help for a dear friend of mine who is a RN travel nurse in LA area. she has an infraction on her license and can not find work until it is resolved, however she feels she has been discriminated because of her race as she is Africian American. My friend is facing homelessness and no income because everywhere she applies she gets turned down because of the infraction. She cannot afford a lawyer and when I hear her case I was convinced she is a victim of discrimination. She can tell you the whole story if someone would just listen to her and give her a chance. Her name is Founcia Martin. Please help!

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