If you just got your nursing license, congratulations! You’ve joined an army of nurses nearly 3 million strong, and have chosen to dedicate yourself to a noble profession. However, as you probably know, there are considerable liability issues that come with professional licensing, and even if you’re a model nurse for your whole career, chances are you’ll have a run-in or two with the board of nursing.
What is the board of nursing?
Well first off, there’s not just one board of nursing. There are many boards that cover different states and territorial areas, so the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with the board of nursing in your jurisdiction of practice. Generally however, all boards of nursing:
-Monitor nurse license administration and the nurse practice act, or the NPA
-Accredit nursing schools and approve new nursing programs
-Develop ethical and practical standards for nurses
-Develop new rules, regulations, and administrative policies
-Address NPA violations and cases of malpractice
As a newly minted nurse, the idea of being slapped with a malpractice lawsuit probably puts chills up your spine. Unfortunately however, nurses are a frequent target of malpractice cases. Between 2003 – 2013, there were nearly 2,000 cases brought against nurses alone! The board of nursing almost always factors into these cases, because it will be up to them to decide whether you were negligent and if the lawsuit has any weight. Reasons the board of nursing might find you negligent include:
-Drug or alcohol use while on the job
-Accusations of theft by a patient, including the theft of prescriptions
-Issues of personal boundaries (physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse)
-Involvement in any other criminal conduct
-Providing care that should fall solely in the hands of a physician
This last violation especially is a popular stipulation in malpractice claims. As you know, a lot of nurse training overlaps with physician training, and so when there’s no physician readily available in a situation where every second counts, many nurses follow their instincts and begin treating a patient without thinking about the liability issues involved.
What should I do if I get in trouble and am called before the board of nursing?
We’re going to keep this section short because there is only one thing to do: call a lawyer. The moment you get served or informed of an impending malpractice case against you, drop everything and look up an attorney for nurses ASAP. They will know better than anyone the ins and outs of your particular state’s statutes related to nursing and will protect you from any further exposure to liability.
How can I limit my exposure to liability before something goes wrong?
In general, there are a few best practices that every nurse should follow. These include:
– Write everything down. Most hospitals have a mechanism for this, but keep your own records if they don’t. Dates, times, unusual incidents, etc.
– Understand the chain of command at your particular place of work. Don’t step on anyone’s toes and make sure your administrative boundaries are clear.
– Go for all workshops and updated training that pertain to your practice. One of the best ways to avoid malpractice is to make sure you’re comfortable with every single aspect of your job.
– If there is a reason, any reason, that you feel too impaired to work, don’t try to fight through it. Inform someone so that you are not put on high-risk intakes for that shift.