What is Nursing Negligence? How to Recognize a Potential Violation

All healthcare providers are obligated legally and ethically to provide care to a high standard of conduct. As part of the medical community, nurses are expected to regard their patient’s safety and well-being above all else. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Let our experienced malpractice attorneys help.

When a nurse fails to perform care within the expected high standards of conduct and a patient is harmed, it can be considered nursing negligence. According to the Nurses Services Organization, since 2015, nursing investigations have increased by 33.7 percent, with 56 percent of all malpractice claims against nurses due to their failure to fulfill core responsibilities, duties, and industry expectations.

While some nursing mistakes can be attributed to a lack of knowledge, skill, or judgment, negligence results when a nurse harms a patient while doing or failing to do something that a reasonably competent and prudent nurse would do under similar circumstances. If you or a loved one was injured or harmed by nursing negligence, you might be entitled to seek financial compensation through a medical malpractice claim.

Common Causes of Nursing Negligence

A charge of nursing negligence can arise from almost any type of action or inaction taken by a nurse that leads to a patient injury and can lead to a malpractice lawsuit. Nursing negligence, defined by the American Journal of Nursing, often takes the form of one of six ways:

  • Failure to follow established standards of care
  • Failure to use equipment in a responsible manner
  • Failure to communicate
  • Failure to document
  • Failure to monitor and assess
  • Failure to act as a patient’s advocate

These can take many different forms.

Failing to Respond to a Patient

One of the top examples of potential nursing negligence is the failure to respond to a patient in a timely manner. It is a nurse’s duty to respond to patients as quickly as possible. While nurses are busy and can’t be in all places at all times, if a patient calls for help or if the delivery of their care is significantly delayed, and this results in injury or harm to the patient, the nurse may be found to be negligent.

Failing to Monitor a Patient

Nurses are required to monitor a patient’s status and report and document when changes occur. In a medical setting, a patient’s status can change in minutes and have dire consequences. A nurse should report any change or concern with a patient’s status to the doctor. If a doctor does not respond, they must take the matter to the next in command.

Failing to Document or Documenting Incorrect or Incomplete Information

Consistent documents of all patient care must be maintained every time something is done with a patient. Incorrect, incomplete, or no documentation can lead to a patient’s over or under medication and put them at risk of harm.

Failing to Administer Medications

Some medications must be withheld depending on the patient’s condition. But when a nurse fails to administer medication without specific cause and a doctor’s order or without properly documenting it, it may result in negligence charges. Whenever any medication is withheld, the physician or charge nurse must be notified, and it must be documented on the patient’s chart.

Administering the Wrong Medication

While a doctor prescribes medications, it is the nurse’s responsibility to verify them for accuracy and dosage and then ensure proper administration according to their orders. Even if a generic substitution has been made, a nurse must verify that the doctor has agreed to allow a generic substitution.

Harming a Patient While Using Medical Equipment

Medical equipment can be life-saving, but if it is used incorrectly or if the equipment that is improperly secured, calibrated, or inoperable is used, it can cause harm.

Doing or Saying Nothing if Action is Required

As the frontline medical provider for a patient, a nurse can be held liable when an emergency happens if immediate steps are not taken.

Nursing Home Negligence

Nursing home negligence has gotten much press recently, especially at the height of COVID. And with good reason. The World Health Organization reports that 2 in 3 nursing home staff have reported that they committed abuse or neglect over the past year. Nursing home abuse and negligence are serious issues in the United States and are expected to continue with the increasing aging population.

Are You Entitled to a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for Nursing Negligence?

Nursing negligence is both an ethical and legal issue. While nurses are ethically obligated to provide patients with high standards of care, they are also legally required to do so.

When a nurse has breached his or her duty of care toward a patient, and that patient is harmed, the patient or family can file a malpractice claim seeking compensation. Over the years, more and more nurses have been named as defendants in medical malpractice claims.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm from nursing negligence, you should get the guidance of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. At Kuhlman Law, our practice is dedicated to helping victims of negligence and their families get the compensation they deserve for their injuries and other damages. Call us at (503) 479-3646 to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.


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