Nursing Malpractice

Medical malpractice is often associated with physicians who make glaring errors such as operating on the wrong body part or prescribing medication to which a patient has documented allergies. However, medical negligence is also prevalent in the nursing profession and can have the same dire consequences. Nurses have considerable contact with patients, and their interactions frequently serve as valuable lines of communicating crucial patient information to the doctor. Unfortunately, advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), licensed practical nurses (LPN), and registered nurses (RN) are all capable of providing subpar patient care that is unsafe, unethical, incompetent, or in violation of an applicable law or rule.

Nursing malpractice happens when a nurse departs from accepted standards of medical care and that departure causes emotional injury, physical injury or death to a patient. It can happen anywhere that nurses work — from a hospital to a nursing facility, a doctor’s office to a patient’s home. The proper standards of care vary from case to case and may stem from several sources, including written procedures, protocols, hospital policies, employer policies, professional studies, job descriptions or state legislation. To prove a claim of malpractice in court, there must be evidence that the nurse had a duty to the patient, that the nurse failed to carry out the duty, that the patient was injured, and that the failure could have reasonably been the cause of the patient’s injury.

Although the list of things that can go wrong in a healthcare facility is virtually endless, there are a number of issues that seem to arise most often in relation to nurses:

  • Administering the wrong medication
  • Documenting care that was never provided
  • Failing to document/report status findings or communications
  • Failing to give medication in a timely manner
  • Failing to notify physician of changes in patient’s condition
  • Failing to recognize significant signs/symptoms
  • Inadequate patient monitoring
  • Not following facility safety protocols
  • Using equipment or performing procedures without proper training.

Medical facilities that lack effective systems of communication and are understaffed can lead to disastrous consequences for patients. Overburdened nurses are more likely to make a mistake. A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined 168 Pennsylvania hospitals and concluded that each additional patient over four in a nurse’s workload produced a seven percent increase for surgical patients in the likelihood of death from serious complications. That study also found that patients in hospitals with eight patients per nurse have a 31 percent higher risk of dying than those in hospitals with a four-to-one ratio. Data from the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations suggests that nurse understaffing is a factor in almost one-quarter of the unanticipated events that result in death, injury, or permanent loss of function.

Poor communication also contributes to patient injuries. A nurse who fails to communicate all pertinent patient data to the attending physician, important assessment findings to the oncoming shift, or relevant discharge information to the patient can be held liable for any resulting harm. In fact, recent research estimates that communication problems were a contributing factor in 7,149 cases (30 percent) of 23,000 medical malpractice claims filed between 2009 and 2013. Additionally, 37 percent of all high-severity injury cases involved communication failures. Miscommunication about a patient’s condition, inadequate informed consent and poor documentation can all have serious repercussions.

Experienced Nursing Malpractice Lawyers

Assigning fault in medical malpractice cases can be complicated, so it’s important to speak with an experienced lawyer who can identify all the proper parties. If you have been injured by a nurse’s negligence, or if such negligence has proven injurious or fatal to someone you love, the Philadelphia nursing error attorneys of Wapner Newman can review your case and advise you whether you have grounds to seek financial compensation. Serving communities throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, our nursing malpractice attorneys believe that harm due to a nurse’s mistake or omission is unacceptable. We invite you to discuss your unique situation by calling us at 1-800-529-6600 or filling out a free case evaluation form.