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How Can Nurses Prevent Malpractice?

Nurses do everything they can to ensure they provide the best care for their patients. However, sometimes they do face accusations of malpractice. Mistakes can happen, especially during busy times, like the height of the pandemic when there was a demand for nurses to take care of an overwhelming number of patients, and when people are working long hours. Burnout can lead to nurses making errors in patient care. For instance, a nurse taking care of several patients at a time may dispense medications later than the prescribed hour, which may cause serious side effects on the patient’s health. 

Additionally, nurses work directly in all aspects of medical care. This degree of involvement and responsibility increases their risk of malpractice allegations. This is a reality that aspiring nurses need to come to grips with as they study for an RN degree. 

Based on the data provided by the Nurses Claim Report, 45.9% of malpractice claims against nurses related to treatment and care. This data is consistent with the CRICO’s 2018 CBS Benchmarking Report, Medical Malpractice in America data showing that most complaints can be categorized as insufficiencies in bedside skills, such as drug administration, monitoring, and clinical assessments. 

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It’s worth noting that while nurses may not always be the defendants in these cases, they remain as the primary individuals responsible for reducing such liabilities. How can nurses avoid accusations of malpractice, both on their own behalf and in support of the institution they work for? Here are some tips:

1. Stay attentive about the patient care you provide

Being hospitalized can make individuals feel vulnerable, particularly if their condition is serious. They want the best care possible from their primary nurses. However, there may be times when nurses may not be able to give the same level of attention to each one of their patients. Not all patients understand that patient care undergoes a triage system wherein the most serious cases get the most immediate and urgent care and oversight. It can be challenging for nurses to make everyone comfortable when the ward and waiting rooms get crowded. 

While studying to become a registered nurse, students come to understand that challenging times like these can happen. It’s part of their clinical practice to have a good grasp of clinical workflow and control of patients. Over time, they learn ways to reassure patients and develop efficiencies to offer the supportive care patients need. Nurses must build rapport and ensure they treat each patient with respect and good etiquette to help them feel comfortable and confident in the treatment they’re receiving. 

2. Take the time to explain consent and processing of patient data

Most patients do not fully understand every procedure and process. Some individuals may be protective about their health conditions. Take time to explain how their personal data will be used when securing their consent. Allow patients to ask questions and put in the effort to patiently answer all their queries.

3. Enroll in continuing education

Once you’ve earned your RN degree, continuing education is necessary. The healthcare system is continually changing and there will continue to be technological advancements and innovations that require additional education and training. 

Some institutions require their nurses to complete several hours of education training. This competency requirement helps update nurses’ knowledge and skills, particularly about recent changes and best practices within their profession. 

Additionally, changing patient care preferences have also made it important for nurses to consider malpractice prevention as part of their continuing education. 

According to Dawn Grace-Jones, a legal practitioner specializing in malpractice prevention and risk management, getting an education about malpractice prevention should be normalized. She said, “Nurses are looking at their work and their documentation one way, but we don’t really teach them that there are other people who are looking at it in a very different way. We have to bring more awareness among nurses about the risks they face and how to protect themselves.”

With the proper knowledge, nurses can defend their expertise in a suit. 

4. Document every activity

Most hospitals have standard operating procedures (SOPs) when dealing with complex situations. Know the hospital policies and make sure you refer to them when making decisions. One of the basic SOPs is recording details in your nurse’s notes. Include all the medications, procedures, and requests that concern the patient. 

Documenting every detail also helps doctors to arrive at an accurate diagnosis and prepare the best treatment options. Good records serve as the nurses’ and other practitioners’ protection should a patient claim against them. 

Recent improvements in teaching methods and clinical training have drastically reduced cases of nursing malpractice over the years. While it may be impossible to completely eradicate them, nurses must remain vigilant to protect their rights and defend their actions. 

HCI College has always been committed to providing aspiring nurses with adequate knowledge to help them prepare as they enter the profession. Explore our programs page to know more about our course offerings. 

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