Nurses play an important role in the medical care of patients. Doctors have often said that nurses are their eyes and ears when they are not with patients. Nurses have the training to understand the signs and symptoms of different diseases and ailments, and that the changes in signs and symptoms are important so that they can be reported to the doctor in a timely manner. If a nurse fails to fulfill their duty, the result can be injury, or even death.
As with other medical professionals, a nurse can commit medical malpractice when they depart from the good and accepted standards of nursing care, and the patient is harmed. Malpractice can occur in a hospital setting or in another location outside the hospital, such as a doctor’s office, nursing home, or the patient’s home. Generally, nursing malpractice is defined as a nursing professional’s negligence that causes a patient under their care to experienced emotional or physical injury or death. Such negligence can include:
- Medication errors,
- Documentation errors,
- The failure to intervene or assess,
- Improper use of instruments,
- Failure to carry out the orders of a physician,
- Failure to monitor the patient properly,
- Making improper notes,
- Failure to recognize the patient’s significant signs and symptoms,
- Failure to notify the physician of the patient’s condition or changes in that condition, or
- Performing other tasks that are part of a nurse’s duty negligently.
When a nurse makes a mistake or is negligent while caring for a patient, the employer is generally liable. The employer is usually the hospital or other medical facility the nurse works for.
When a patient has been injured due to nursing malpractice, the injured patient or their representative may be able to file a civil lawsuit against the nurse’s employer to seek financial compensation for damages, such as:
- Medical expenses;
- Future medical care;
- Assistive devices (if needed);
- In-home care (if needed);
- Physical therapy;
- Lost earnings (due to an inability to work);
- Future lost earnings;
- Pain and suffering; and/or
- Emotional trauma.
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