What Is Nursing Negligence?
When most people think of medical malpractice, they think of a doctor or perhaps a hospital. Comparatively few people think of a nurse when it comes to medical malpractice. However, nurses can and do commit medical mistakes that lead to a patient’s injury or death. Furthermore, it is possible for a patient to sue a nurse for medical malpractice.
In fact, just about any type of healthcare provider can be in a position to commit medical malpractice. For example, a pharmacist who dispenses the wrong type of medication or the wrong dose can be sued to medical malpractice if his mistake results in injury to the patient. Likewise, a dentist can be held liable for medical malpractice if he deviates from the standard of care and causes his patient to suffer an injury.
Why Would You Sue a Nurse for Medical Malpractice?
Understandably, many people wonder why you would sue a nurse for medical malpractice rather than the doctor or the hospital. After all, isn’t the doctor overseeing the nurse’s work? Isn’t the hospital ultimately in charge of the nurse as the nurse’s employer?
First, it’s important to understand that, just like a doctor, a nurse is a licensed medical professional. Nurses must be licensed to practice nursing, and they must pass state licensing exams before they can work as a nurse and provide care to patients. If they commit an error or deviate from the standard of care, they can lose their license to practice nursing.
Second, there are many cases in which nurses are called upon to make independent judgments about a patient’s care. In fact, in many situations it is a nurse who first makes contact with a patient. For example, a nurse who is supposed to monitor a patient’s vital signs throughout the night might be held liable for medical malpractice if he or she fails to recognize signs that the patient is experiencing distress.
Likewise, a home health nurse who makes visits to a patient’s home could be found to have been negligent if he or she makes a treatment mistake that results in injury to the patient. In these situations, it is typically a nurse — not a doctor — who provides medical care to a patient.
Additionally, what about cases in which a nurse is in charge of monitoring a mother who is in labor? In most hospitals and birthing centers, it is nurses who take care of laboring mothers — often for hours. Unfortunately, a nurse who misses critical signs of a baby or mother in distress and who fails to alert a doctor can cause irreparable harm to the mother or baby. In this type of case, it is appropriate for the patient to sue the nurse.
Other types of nursing mistakes include:
Failing to answer a patient’s call button
Improperly recording a patient’s vital signs
Giving a patient the wrong type or dose of medication
Making mistakes with a patient’s diet
Charting mistakes that lead to injury
Mistakes with operating medical equipment
Failing to alert a doctor when vital signs are problematic
While the patient may need to sue a nurse for medical malpractice, there are also cases in which a patient would want to sue both the nurse and the doctor, or perhaps the nurse and the hospital. In some cases, the patient may need to file a lawsuit against the nurse, the doctor, and the hospital.
The Elements of Medical Malpractice
To establish a case of medical malpractice against a nurse, a patient must be able to establish the four elements of medical malpractice.
A nurse-patient relationship – The patient must be able to show that the nurse owed the patient a duty of care. This is similar to the doctor-patient relationship. Basically, the nurse must have been charged with providing medical care to the patient.
A breach of the duty of care – The patient must also be able to show that the nurse deviated from the accepted standard of care. In most cases, a qualified expert must be willing to swear in an affidavit that the nurse failed to uphold the requisite duty of care.
Injury to the patient – The patient must have suffered an injury due to the nursing negligence. If the nurse acted negligently, but the patient wasn’t hurt as a result, there is probably no case for medical malpractice.
The injury caused damages – The patient must also be able to show that he or she suffered damages as a result of the nursing negligence.
If you believe you have suffered an injury as a result of nursing negligence, don’t hesitate to act quickly to protect your legal rights. An experienced nursing negligence lawyer can help you understand the next steps in your case. In most cases, the time limits for filing a claim are quite short, which is why it’s important to avoid delays.
Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.