What are the Legal Responsibilities of being a Nurse?

Just as in any profession, or life in general, we must all follow the rules. Nurses are not any different, in fact, they are expected to adhere to even higher standards since they are responsible for the lives of others. For this reason, nurses must exercise great caution in their decision-making to reduce the possibility of legal liabilities.

Nurses must also act in accordance to ethical requirements to suit the best interest of their patients. Although some situations are not textbook, a nurse must be able to make the right decision with precision timing.

Fortunately, the American Nurses Association (ANA) publishes guidelines for ethical nursing practice within the United States. As the nursing profession evolves, The ANA Code of Ethics manual issues updates as well, specifically concerning controversial subjects regarding end of life decisions. Although, the core ethical principles of nursing stay the same, your employer should keep you up-to-date on changes and current issues through notices and regular in-service training.

There are several areas of legal and ethical challenges that nurses may face at any given time. They may include the balance of your time between your patient’s care and the efficiency of the facility, the dealing with workplace conflict and staffing shortages or the appropriate use of social media and patient privacy.

As a nurse, you may also be faced with ethical issues such as competency. A nurse is obligated to stay up-to-date on all the latest developments regarding a patient’s care. They also have the responsibility to monitor the patient’s care and treatment and express all concerns and findings to the patient’s doctor or other healthcare professional. As a nurse, open communication with the patient is required regarding their treatments and prognosis. Nurses are responsible to not only their patients but also to other fellow employees. It is imperative, that nursing-related professionals realize that they are bound and obligated to consider all consequences of their actions when taking care of their patient’s medical and mental needs regardless of race, gender, political views or religious beliefs.

Although we are all entitled to our own beliefs or opinions, when one is in the nursing profession, you must adhere to the patient’s wishes or beliefs. Situations such as, a “Do Not Resuscitate” order or issues addressing pro-life versus pro-choice are just two examples where you must respect the patient’s wishes even if you do not agree with them. In some instances, in the events of natural disasters where supplies and medications are running low, nurses have had to be responsible for making the ethical decision of choosing which patients would get treatment and which ones are just made comfortable till supplies were replenished.

The healthcare industry must rely on their written rules of how a professional nurse should conduct themselves, always. As a nurse, you will be asked to be loyal and truthful with your patients while combining the practice of medicine, however, the laws have been created to protect you and your patients. As a nursing student, you will be responsible for learning the rules and regulations for maintaining a good relationship with your patients to avoid malpractice lawsuits.

By the way, if you have an interest in law, in addition to being a nurse, why not combine the two and become a Legal Nurse Consultant (LNC). A LNC must first become a Registered Nurse. They are considered to be liaisons between the healthcare and legal systems in cases of personal injury, medical malpractice or criminal law. A career as a Forensic Nurse would be a good option for you, as well.

If you would like to learn more about nursing, check out our Top Online Nursing Degree Programs for further information.