Oftentimes, we associate medical malpractice and negligence with our doctors. However, sometimes the fault is not on the doctor but on the nurse instead. The nurse has specific duties, and failure to do those correctly can lead the nurse to be responsible for a medical malpractice incident. Common types of negligence in nursing include the improper use of medical equipment, medication errors, not following the physician’s orders, and not checking on or caring for the patient regularly. These errors can occur in a variety of settings, such as nursing homes, hospitals, emergency rooms, and general practice facilities.
The Snyder Law Group advocates for the victims of nursing malpractice throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. Our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers have recovered hundreds of millions on behalf of personal injury and medical malpractice victims. We understand the challenges nursing malpractice victims face and that they may be hesitant to trust another professional after what they experienced. We take all of our personal injury and medical malpractice cases on contingency, meaning we do not receive any upfront legal fees unless we win your case and you receive compensation. Our team understands what you are going through and is here to help.
What Duties Do Nurses Owe to Their Patients?
Nurses are medical providers and, as such, owe patients similar obligations as other professionals do their clients, patients, or customers. In today’s times, nurses also provide more advanced levels of care than nurses in years past. For example, registered nurse practitioners can diagnose patients with certain conditions, examine patients, and even prescribe treatments while under the supervision of a coordinating doctor. The expanding role that nurses play in patient care is important and can greatly impact a patient’s outcome if done incorrectly.
Nurses must abide by the standard practices of nursing and follow the latest research and techniques. Nurses should also adequately inform the patients of the risks and benefits of certain treatment courses, where appropriate, or refrain from talking to patients about these matters if it falls outside their authority to do so. They should follow treatment protocols and adequately monitor patients under their care. Nurses may owe additional or different duties to their patients depending on the surrounding context.
When Can You Sue a Nurse?
When you go to the doctor or admit your loved one into a healthcare facility, you expect the healthcare professionals, such as the nurses, to conduct themselves in a respectful and competent manner. Unfortunately, this does not always occur, leading patients to suffer preventable and severe injuries or even lose their lives because of subpar nursing care.
When nurses fail to act appropriately or according to generally accepted principles of nursing, they can injure or even kill a patient. If either of these occurs, the patient or their surviving family members may be eligible to file a nursing malpractice lawsuit to recover compensation. The applicable legal standard you must meet to have a claim depends on the law of the state where the medical error occurred.
Most medical claims are based on the legal theory of negligence. Under this principle, nurses may be responsible for a patient’s injury or death if the following is at play:
- The nurse owed the patient a duty of care to follow standard principles of nursing and act competently and within their authority.
- The nurse’s conduct fell below the standard of care required under the circumstances and the law.
- The patient suffered physical or economic damages because of the nurse’s actions or inaction.
- There is a sufficient causal connection between the nurse’s action or inaction (the breach) and the resulting injury to or death of the patient.
Patients must prove all four elements to have a potentially successful nursing malpractice claim. In Washington, D.C., patients must also send a specific notice to the nurse or healthcare professional before the patient files a lawsuit. The notice should inform the nurse or other healthcare provider that the patient intends to file a lawsuit and explain what the patient believes occurred. A nursing malpractice attorney can help patients prepare and file this form.
What Are Common Types of Negligence in Nursing?
Nurses commit many mistakes on any given day, resulting in many types of patient injuries. Common types of nursing negligence include the following:
- Improperly using medical instruments,
- Not administering or logging patient medications correctly,
- Failing to follow the physician’s orders, and
- Not checking on or caring for the patient regularly.
These are just some examples of nursing negligence. Unfortunately, there are numerous ways in which nurses make mistakes and harm patients, intentionally or unintentionally. If you think you or your loved one are the victims of nursing negligence, consider contacting an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to understand your legal rights.
Improperly Using Medical Instruments
One of the most important jobs that nurses have is to take patient vitals, cooperate with doctors and other members of the team to care for the patient, and administer medications. To accomplish these and other tasks, the nurses must use medical instruments. When they fail to use these correctly, it can have terrible consequences.
For example, improper use of a syringe can lead to a potentially deadly air bubble being released into the patient’s bloodstream. If the nurse does not use a catheter correctly, it can injure the patient. Likewise, improperly intubating a patient can have devastating impacts on the patient’s outcome. Further, if a nurse attempts to intubate a patient when they don’t have the authority or training to do so, this can constitute nursing malpractice.
Not Administering or Logging Patient Medication Correctly
Modern medicine has the power to heal or to harm. When nurses fail to administer a patient’s medication regimen properly, deadly consequences can occur. In one infamous case, the nurse mistakenly gave a patient a vecuronium, a paralyzing agent, instead of Versed, a mild sedative intended to calm a patient, so she could receive an MRI before being discharged. Sadly, the patient died because of the error. The nurse reported the error to her supervising doctor as soon as she discovered it, but the patient was already brain-dead.
Also problematic is when nurses fail to update a patient’s chart to reflect whether the patient received medications and what those prescriptions were. If nurses fail to update the patient’s chart, other staff members may give the patient too much or too little medication. Dosage errors are similarly hazardous, causing patients to experience an overdose or not have enough medication in their systems.
Failing to Follow the Physician’s Orders
Another source of nursing malpractice is when nurses fail to follow a physician’s instructions about a patient’s care or what the nurse is to tell the patient. When patients are in the hospital, nurses are often the first line of defense and interact with the patients more than the doctors do.
For that reason, it is imperative for nurses to follow the instructions given to them by the doctor diligently. Doing so is especially important when the patient is in critical or intensive care or is vulnerable because of their age. Seemingly minor misunderstandings can have enormous impacts on the patient’s overall health and trajectory.
Not Checking on or Caring for the Patient Regularly
In many settings, nurses are extremely busy, caring for many patients simultaneously as they make their rounds in a given facility. Nurses may cut corners or simply forget to check on patients, leading to poor patient outcomes. Additionally, nurses may not adequately rotate bed-ridden patients, leading the patients to develop bed sores or any number of hospital-acquired infections.
Not checking on patients or caring for them regularly is also a common form of nursing home negligence. Nurses may fail to take nursing home residents to use the restroom or care for their hygienic or medical needs in a timely manner. This can cause mental and physical distress, further exacerbated if residents suffer a serious fall and no one checks on them until hours after it occurs.
What Should I Do If I Am the Victim of Nursing Negligence?
No patient should have to fear or worry about the standard of care they receive while in a vulnerable state, such as when they need medical attention. Nurses have an ethical and legal obligation to care for their patients appropriately and not intentionally or recklessly harm them. When their conduct falls below the standard of care required of them, patients may be eligible to file a legal claim against them.
As a victim of nursing malpractice, your best option is to first document what happened and assert your legal rights to hold the at-fault nurse or facility accountable by filing a claim. You can do so by filing a lawsuit with the appropriate court. The best practice is to contact an experienced attorney who can help you prepare and file the claim. Maryland and Washington, D.C., have special rules that patients must follow when filing a lawsuit against an at-fault nurse, doctor, hospital, or another type of healthcare professional. A medical malpractice attorney can help you understand your legal options and protect your legal rights.
Have You Or A Loved One Been A Victim Of Medical Malpractice? Call The Snyder Law Group Today
The Snyder Law Group, LLC, proudly represents clients through Maryland and Washington D.C. Our experienced Baltimore attorneys understand the frustration of working with an insurance company, medical professional, or another party that refuses to accept liability for negligence or reckless behavior. You can take heart in knowing our talented and experienced lawyers are ready to work for you. We are experienced in handling personal injury claims that result from medical malpractice or injury resulting from serious car or truck accidents and have secured hundreds of millions in verdicts and settlements. Give us a call at (410)-883-8132 for a free case evaluation. You can also visit our website www.410thefirm.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for more information.