Healthcare is fraught with legal pitfalls that can have severe consequences for uninformed nurses. An accredited online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program will typically include coursework on nursing’s ethical and legal issues. Since professional demands on nurses include a legal and moral duty to protect patient privacy and mandatory reporting obligation, they must understand healthcare law. This enables nurses to practice confidently, avoid unintentional harm, and safeguard their livelihoods.
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What Are the Most Serious Legal Issues Facing Nurses?
Nurses face many ethical difficulties, many of which require split-second decisions. If a nurse makes an incorrect decision or the outcome is otherwise poor, it can harm the patient, leading to complaints, formal disciplinary action, and legal trouble for nurses. Since 2015, the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) has reported 80,588 adverse action reports filed against registered nurses.
Some of the most common legal issues that nurses may face include the following:
HIPAA and confidentiality. HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was enacted in 1996 to standardize electronic health transactions and give patients more control over their identifiable health information. Nurses have access to vast amounts of personal health data about their patients as part of the nurse-patient relationship. As stated in the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses, nurses are responsible for safeguarding this data and maintaining patient privacy and confidentiality. The nondisclosure agreement is violated when patient information is shared with unauthorized individuals via email, social media, or casual conversation.
Malpractice. It is common to believe that medical malpractice claims only affect physicians and their employers. On the other hand, nurses can be held liable even if their actions and consequences result from an honest mistake. For example, administering the incorrect medication or failing to note a patient’s critical status change can result in malpractice allegations. According to NPDB data, 1,665 medical malpractice payments have been made on behalf of RNs since 2015, with more than half of those claims valued at $100,000 or more.
Reporting is required. Nurses have frequent interactions with the general public and unique opportunities to observe their health and well-being, which qualifies them as mandated reporters. When they witness abuse or neglect, they must report it to the proper authorities. Vulnerable populations, such as children, the elderly, and victims of domestic violence, are frequently unable to seek help independently and must rely on nurses and other mandatory reporters for assistance. Nurses are expected to understand and follow the mandatory reporting laws in their respective states.
What Are the Repercussions of Nurses Breaking the Law?
The penalties for violating healthcare laws vary widely and are usually based on the state’s expectations of nurses and the severity of the transgression. Furthermore, whether the act was intentional is a consideration. It is important to note that nurses may be held liable even if the damage was unintentional, so understanding all applicable laws is essential.
Nurses who engage in illegal activities may face the following penalties:
Revocation of a nursing license, either temporarily or permanently
Any specialized board credentials and certifications that have been lost
Charges, jail time, and monetary penalties
Employer-sanctioned disciplinary actions, such as demotion, unpaid leave of absence, and termination
Given the litigious nature of American society and the extent to which it has infiltrated the healthcare system, nurses must learn the complexities of the laws that govern their profession. They can protect themselves, their patients, and their employers from potentially severe consequences if they understand the ethical-legal issues of nursing.
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The purpose of this assignment is for students to identify potential legal risks providers face in the current health care environment.
1. Please identify and discuss existing or potential areas of legal/litigation risk for a new graduate (support with at least 2 references).
2. Discuss ways the new graduate APRN can avoid these pitfalls.
Needs to be two pages and in APA format.