Medical Malpractice Liability and Nurses; Why Nurses are being sued More and More Often

Medical malpractice can occur not just by doctors or more broadly hospitals, but also by support staff such as nurses.  In fact, I have seen more and more medical malpractice cases against nurses recently.  These suits can come in a variety of contexts such as in nursing homes, physician offices, or in hospitals.  In fact, I would do so far as to call this an upward trend in medical malpractice suits against nurses.

But wait—before you think that more plaintiffs are adjusting their sights from physicians to nurses think again!  In the past few years, the role of nurses has really changed in the medical field.  One might go as far to say that nurses were once considered the “behind the scenes” or passive health care worker assisting a physician or hospital.  However now, the role of a registered nurse is considerably more assertive and prevalent.  Tasks that used to be performed solely by physicians or residents are now being shifted away from them and towards nurses.  These tasks include operating medical equipment, coordinating patient care, and monitoring or gathering patient physical or mental information. 

Moreover, coupled with the shortage of qualified nurses, hospitals have become overrun with need and the few nurses that are working are doing the work double what they should or can be handling.  This is a recipe for accidents just by the inherent nature of not being able to service all patients effectively.

Like a medical malpractice claim against a physician, the burden of proof is also on the plaintiff to show that the defendant-nurse deviated from the acceptable standard of care and that this deviation proximately caused the injury to the plaintiff.  This standard of care is considered the floor, meaning it is the baseline that a nurse can perform to avoid liability.  Just as physicians use the locality rule, nurses also have a similar locality rule which requires them to possess the degree of learning and skill ordinarily possessed by nurses in good standing in their community, and to the exercise that degree of care ordinarily exercised by other members of the profession acting in similar circumstances.

Additionally, there are guidelines and other standards issued to nurses on the national state, and local levels which dictate how a nurse’s conduct should be and how they will be evaluated.  Most of these standards are not products of law, but the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) does provide requirements for nurses; that is mainly for the purposes of obtaining Medicare and Medicaid funding though.  One of the most prominent standards issued comes from the American Nurses Association (“ANA”) which delineates standards for all types of nurses (i.e. emergency room, operating room, medical-surgical, critical care, obstetrical, etc).

So if you or someone you know has suffered medical malpractice because of something a nurse did, you may still have a claim!  Just because it was not a doctor does not preclude you from having a medical malpractice claim.  As I have previously discussed, medical malpractice claims can be maintained against ANY medical provider such as doctors, surgeons, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists.

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected]  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at
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by Medical Service July 23, 2012 at 11:08 PM
I had no idea about the upward trend in medical malpractice suits against nurses. I was thinking about going into the medical field but not as a doctor or nurse. I was thinking more like medical device development. I would love to test medical software and electronics. Thanks for the great post.
by mackenzie June 29, 2012 at 08:33 AM
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