What is Nurse Negligence and How to Avoid It

nurse negligenceby Sarah Stasik

Nurse negligence can lead to patient injury or even death, and the charges of negligence that may come with a nurse malpractice suit are definitely something RNs want to avoid.  

Discover the difference between actual negligence and a charge of negligence and ways to avoid negligence as a nurse as you treat patients. 

Nurse Negligence vs. Charges of Negligence 

Dr. Deane Waldman, MD and Director of the Center for Health Care Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, points out that there's a difference between a charge of negligence and actual negligence. 

Waldman, who is also the author of the Restoring Care to American Healthcare series, says, "To avoid being negligent, one need only be attentive, careful and thoughtful." 

Sometimes, says Waldman, RNs may face nurse malpractice claims even when they aren't actually negligent.

Avoiding Actual Nurse Negligence 

According to American Nurse Today, the most common cases of nurse negligence include failures in:

  • Following standards of care
  • Communication
  • Documentation
  • Monitoring
  • Assessing patients or conditions

In short, following the requirements of your job, working on your communication skills and paying attention to the details all go a long way to reducing the chance that you might be negligent in your treatment of a patient. 

Be willing to work with other staff to learn from them so you can positively impact patient safety and outcomes. 

Avoiding Nurse Malpractice Cases When You aren't Negligent 

Waldman says to avoid a charge of negligence, nurses must be fully compliant with rules, regulations and policies and procedures.  

It's not enough to care thoughtfully and with skill for your patient — you must do so within the administrative and legal boundaries set before you. 

Nursing2018, a peer-reviewed journal for clinicians, publishes additional tips on reducing risks of nurse malpractice suits.  

The advice includes taking special care with treatments and medications and being kind and calm when dealing with patients.  

The tips also include taking time to understand your own skill sets so you don't agree to assignments you're not ready for without proper supervision.  

Even if a supervisor asks you to take on a task, if you know you don't have the skill to perform it appropriately alone, doing so anyway puts you at risk for nurse malpractice. 

Charges of nurse negligence can be very serious. Most facilities have resources in compliance, legal, HR or nurse management who can help you understand more about negligence and avoid it, so don't be afraid to connect with leaders to learn more.

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