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Nursing is an honored profession that needs not only academic qualification but also dedication, compassion, and loyalty both to patients and the entire work place. On the other hand, nursing is also a complex occupation that is governed by tight legal provisions, ethical requirements, and high moral expectations. As a result, the professionals in this field must have wide knowledge in regards to internal and external matters that pertain to their service delivery. Many times, nurses stand accused of negligence while on duty. Understanding negligence liability is necessary for nurses to know what might construe as an act of negligence and also as a knowledge ground for their roles in a healthcare facility (Cribb, 2007).
Negligence is the act of refraining from or undertaking an activity that a reasonable health professional would undertake or refrain from in the same situation. In nursing, for example, a nurse can be liable to negligence in inadequate hydration, physical abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, poor nutrition, and medication errors to his or her patient. Negligence mostly results from the practitioner’s carelessness and lack of attention to the patients. In nursing, negligence is determined by the extent of violation of nursing codes of ethics and the state’s legal provisions (Cribb, 2007).
Codes of ethics are professional decision tools that are used in various professions. Ethics guide individuals or groups in their daily conduct while in their work environment. Every day, health practitioners’ decisions are weighed against these codes. A breach of the codes can be treated as ethical misconduct or negligence. Nursing codes of ethics are set under five main principles in line with the bill of rights. The principles include autonomy, which is the ability for one to make decisions within his working capacity and beneficence, the act of putting patients’ safety before even the practitioners’ needs. Others include non-maleficence, justice, and fidelity. Fidelity is the commitment and accountability in delivering healthcare services by health practitioners and is closely linked to cases of negligence. Anything that is contrary to healthcare professional code of ethics, such as negligence, is considered a malpractice (Cribb, 2007).
Legally, negligence is defined as an injury or a breach of duty. In courts, a proof that injury occurred, and the injury can be directly linked to nurse’s care or lack of care to his or her patient thereof is necessary.In order for a case to be valid under negligence, a breach of duty must be determined. Consequently, an element of injury resulting from a nurse’s failure to perform a duty must also be determied. A nurse failure in duty in injury holds only when there is a direct impact that is associated with neglect of given particular duty. Negligence can also hold in performance failures. Lack of proper training can lead to constant medication errors, improper usage of health equipment, and failure in following protocols. In essence, professional qualification and skills can be applied to determination of negligence validity (Cribb, 2007).
Today, there is an increased attention to planning and management that is fulfilled by nurses, patient care assessment, and legal awareness of nursing malpractices. Most claims arise from a nurse’s failure in assessment performance or miscommunication between nurses and their physicians over patient’s condition. Medication administration error accounts for most of malpractices that are performed by nurses currently. Medication malpractices come in form of application of wrong methods in drug administration, wrong dosage, and failure to keep time. Apart from drug administration, nurses suffer from inadequate skills, poor supervision, and poor organization system (Cribb, 2007).
Beneficence is the core duty of nurses. A nurse needs to place the patient life first even before fulfilling his or her needs. They are the strongest advocators to patient. Nurse-physician relationship can be insulation against negligence. Nevertheless, blindly performing duties may pose them to negligence liability if their actions are not for the benefit of their patients. Before judge, nurse patient relationship must be established for a negligence case to hold. Consequently, a scope of duty that the nurse owed the patient and the entire health profession of the organization must exist. Examination should reveal that a nurse action created a departure from accepted and good practice. In case of several options, a negligence liability will not hold as long as there was possible failure in any of the options given. Finally, close relationship must exist between the departure of accepted standard and the resultant injury (Cribb, 2007).
Negligence is a nursing malpractice resulting from the breach of duty. To underscore negligence liability, a sample case can be given from a hospital scenario. The case involves Edith, an inpatient, and Lory, a nurse on duty. Edith was seen by a doctor who advised for close supervision after administering medication. The doctor advised Lory that the drug might convulse the patient. However, Lory skipped four consecutive ward checks. During this time, Edith convulsed, fell from the bed, and broke his arm. She was found in an awkward position in great pain. In the course, Edith also missed her dose as prescribed by the doctor. This further complicated her mediical condition. She later suffered stroke and died during arm surgery.
Edith’s case can be categorized under negligence with the following facts: four ward checks were not implemented by Lory. This was a breach of duty. As a result, Edith was found suffering on the floor. She even sustained an arm injury directly resulting from the lack of close supervision. Secondly, Edith missed her medication, which was crucial for her recovery. This can be considered as a performance failure. Thirdly, there was no nursing compassion, care, and competency that guided the practitioner in handling the patient. Ethically, Edith’s treatment was marred with nursing malpractices. Lory is liable for negligence (Cribb, 2007).
The case of Edith, who was found neglected, is a breach of healthcare fidelity. The nurse was charged with care for Edith, but was non-accountable and showed no commitment to her patient’s treatment. As a result, Lory’s actions led to maleficence, which is legally punishable. This is because Edith succumbed to her death following the nurse’s negligence. Missing routine ward checks and failure to give a patient her medication is malpractice and an act of negligence.
From the study, it can be seen that Edith’s further incapacitation was due to Lory’s negligence. Lory failed to work within her professional codes of conduct and healthcare ethics. Her actions led to direct injury as an evident of negligence. To avoid such occurrences, healthcare ethics and nursing and midwifery codes need be consistently applied by all healthcare practitioners. Nurses should understands and respect healthcare professional ethics. Before employment, trainers should ensure that the nurses can adhere to the highest degree of professionalism in their career. Personal discipline and self-actualization is vital in this career. Some values that are required in nursing cannot be developed through training; hence, a person needs to understand him or herself before objecting to a duty (Cribb, 2007).
Nurses should be well informed on safety laws, nursing customs, and board regulations. Health organizations should clearly define nurses’ duties to avoid job overlaps and overburden of nurses that can lead to breach of other vital activities. As part of their training, nurses need to be diligent in their undertaking and have compassion for the sick. Proper communication should be enhanced among nurses, physicians, and patients to avoid errors resulting from miscommunication. Nurses need to know their rights and autonomic powers while performing their duties. Negligence can result from misguidance by physicians and other top health authorities in an organization.
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