Pub. Date:
Wolters Kluwer Health
Nursing Malpractice

Nursing Malpractice


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Nursing Malpractice

This book cites court cases and settlements as a foundation to explain complicated legal and ethical issues in health care delivery. Chapters address issues surrounding each case, suggest ways that the litigation could have been avoided, and apply lessons to the larger context of daily nursing practice. Topics covered include a matter-of-fact view on medication error, documentation, breach of confidentiality, patient safety, assessment and monitoring, and patient rights. Supplemented by a special chapter on being sued and what to do, as well as featured opinions and contributions of more than two dozen nurse attorneys and risk-management and malpractice experts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582552071
Publisher: Wolters Kluwer Health
Publication date: 10/04/2002
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 0.54(w) x 8.00(h) x 5.00(d)

Table of Contents

Contributors and consultants
Chapter One Nursing practice and the law
Chapter Two Medication errors
Chapter Three Failure to communicate information
Chapter Four Failure to document information
Chapter Five Failure to perform a proper assessment
Chapter Six Failure to protect
Chapter Seven Failure to perform reasonable patient care
Chapter Eight Breach of confidentiality
Chapter Nine Criminal actions
Chapter Ten Advocacy, ethics, and legal duties
Chapter Eleven Legal risks of understafing
Chapter Twelve Surviving a lawsuit
Court case citation index
General index


If you’ve never been sued for nursing malpractice, the information in Nursing Malpractice:  Sidestepping Legal Minefields alone can ensure that your name never appears as a defendant on a malpractice complaint.  If you are sued, the material in this invaluable nursing manual can guide you methodically through that process with some degree of quietude – and with expert guidance for your practice in the future.

Profit over patients.  You’ve heard this slogan – and seen headlines such as these:  Nursing mistakes kill, injure thousands—Cost-cutting exacts toll on patients, hospital staffs.  The numbers are astounding.  In its 1999 landmark report on medical errors in the United States, the Institute of Medicine estimated that as many as 98,000 deaths occur every year as a result of preventable medical errors.  In September 2000, the Chicago Tribune cited “at least 1,720 hospital patients accidentally killed and 9,584 others injured since 1995 from the actions or inactions of registered nurses across the country.”*

But that’s not you.  You’re a good nurse, right?

Until one morning, when the Risk Management office notifies you that you’re being sued for nursing malpractice!  You struggle to remember the patient.  Was it a “near miss”?  Was there even a “bad” outcome?  You want to stop everything.  Find the chart now.  You’re preoccupied with trying to recall every detail of your care to that patient.

Or, you vividly do recall that patient, the infant, and her death.  But how can you be responsible for understaffing that night?  For the physician’s refusal to come in for the delivery?  For a vacuum extractor that malfunctioned?

Your world has turned upside down.  Will the hospital back you up — or support the physician?  Will you still have a job or can they fire you?  What will your colleagues think?  Your family?  Will anyone trust you alone with a patient again?  Will you lose your license?  How can you continue to do your job today, tomorrow, without being obsessed with worry and second-guessing your actions?

When did every step of nursing become like walking alone through a minefield?

Nursing Malpractice:  Sidestepping Legal Minefields steers you nimbly through that minefield.  It shows you where danger lies and tells you how to chart your path. 

The unique approach in this indispensable book brings the lessons home.  Chapters open with two actual, recent nursing malpractice lawsuits; you read all about the charges, the nurse’s defense, and the outcome.  Then you learn about the legal points at issue in each case, how the nurse could have evaded the lawsuite, and the specific ways you can keep from committing the same errors in your practice.  To further illustrate key and related points, chapters highlight many additional precedent-setting court cases involving nurses around the country.

Attention-getting graphic icons draw your eye to expert opinions on specific legal points, additional related court cases, and case lessons to take to heart.  The glossary defines the legal terms you see written in bold italic type in the chapters.  You’ll also find a general index and an index of the court case citations.

Why are nurses sued? For all the reasons Nursing Malpractice explains in detail – medication errors and omissions; failure to monitor the patient, to document all nursing actions, to communicate timely and clearly with physicians and other providers; misuse of equipment; failure to educate the patient and family; and failure to provide a safe environment, including misuse of chemical and physical restraints and breaches in patient confidentiality and privacy – to list just a few.

If you are sued, how can you prove you didn’t commit malpractice? What do courts consider the appropriate standard of nursing care?

Nursing Malpractice:  Sidestepping Legal Minefields gathers the court cases that define your legal risks; quotes the opinions of legal experts; and applies the case lessons to your practice.  It shows you legally how to meet the best standards of patient care – and how to prove that you did.  What’s more, it shows you how to legally advocate for your patient – and yourself – as a nurse.

Once you’re educated to the risks that lead to nursing malpractice lawsuits, you’re armed with a detector to cross that minefield.  You’ll have renewed confidence in your nursing practice and can clearly focus on what you love best:  providing high quality care to all your patients.


Ann Helm, RN, BSN, MS, JD
Consultant – Medical Malpractice

Faculty,  Oregon Health Sciences University

Lt. Col, U.S. Air Force Reserves, Judge Advocate General Department

            Portland, OR


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