Older people often prefer to move to a nursing home or any long-term healthcare facility to ensure that specialists will take good care of them, and the patients will be protected from the negative effects of the mental and physical states. These facilities guarantee beneficial experience and favorable environment for every patient. However, the negligent, careless, and intentional acts of caregivers sometimes psychologically and physically harm older people. Institutional settings identify some factors that contribute to negligence and abuses among residents, namely inadequately trained and poorly qualified medical personnel; staff, which has a long history of violent behavior; insufficient number of specialists; the residents’ isolation; and unwillingness to report violations due to fear and embarrassment. In order to build open, respectful relationship and communication with patients, nurses as well as other physicians should be always aware of their responsibilities. The reason is that the patients will never sue if they feel that the nurses are caring and professional specialists.
Nowadays, more and more nurses are accused of negligence, and the claims for malpractice are filed against them. The tendency unfortunately does not show any signs of improvement despite educators’ efforts to inform the students and nurses about their professional and legal responsibilities and restrictions. According to Guido (2001), allegations of negligence against nurses arise from different actions or failure to act properly. It often leads to patients’ injuries as a result of unintentional failure of specialists to follow necessary standards of clinical practices leading to infinite malpractice lawsuits.
There are many cases, in which a nursing home can be responsible for causing harm to other people as a result of abuses, negligence, and violations of standards and regulations. Exploitation of older people is regarded as an act of abuse that may lead to investigation conducted by the protective service agencies, criminal prosecution, and lawsuits. These proceedings have various aims. The goal of the investigation held by the protective agencies is to provide immediate assistance, relief and prevent further damages. The objective of the lawsuits as the civil actions is to eliminate harm. The prosecution is aimed at punishing negligent behavior. The liability of the owner or specialists in health facilities can result from neglect in hiring, retention of health workers, poor supervision, personal care, and low maintenance of work equipment and premises.
Nursing facilities are held liable for negligence if injured patients prove that specialists or chief of the health facility breached their obligations to take care of injured individuals. This breach has led to the patient’s injury, and the wrong conduct of the nurses or owner caused this injury. While these elements are equally relevant to the malpractice lawsuits filed by the nursing home residents and visitors, the emphasis is made particularly on the issues that arise from residents’ negligent actions.
Moreover, each hospital should provide a determined and necessary amount of registered nurses, who should be on duty all the time as well as maintain high quality of service and care for each patient. Hospitals that fail to follow these rules are often held liable for patients’ injuries resulting from a nursing shortage. Another case of potential liability emerges when a health worker fails to comply with the orders of the patient’s private physician. Conversely, if the hospital employees find that a treatment plan elaborated by the private medic is contraindicated, but they are unable to make reasonable requests for the specialist and plan, the healthcare setting can be considered liable in this case.
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With increasing responsibility to assess, plan, and manage patient care, lawsuits against medical personnel continue to grow. Most of the legal claims arise from the medics’ failure to provide proper assessment and notify the treating specialist of changes to the patients’ conditions. Other common errors of the nurses happen when administering medication. According to Hughes and Ortiz (2005), this form of nursing negligence contributes to almost thirty percent of all medical illegal actions and includes giving wrong drugs or drug dose as well as applying inadequate methods to administer them. Nursing staff should have obligations to advocate for all the patients and keep them safe. However, they still cannot change the course that the physician sets because they have a different standpoint. Accomplishing a medic’s order may insulate nurses from liability for medical negligence. However, blindly completing these orders cannot protect a nurse from liability in the case if such orders are doubtful and questionable. Under normal circumstances, healthcare facilities cannot be responsible for injuries provoked by their medical staff, when they come to work or go home from work. However, some exceptions still exist.
For example, there may be a car accident where a nurse was inadvertently involved on her way back home from the training and which caused two deaths. It is important to mention that a nurse attended training after a 12-hour shift at the hospital; she was tired and fell asleep. A driver collided with a truck that led to the deaths of two passengers. Subsequently, the court ruled that a woman was acting within her employment scope at the time of the clash. Finally, a nurse as well as the hospital was held liable for the caused damage.
Nurses are required to analyze facts and circumstances of each case. In order to prevent malpractice, it is vital for the nurses to undertake evaluation of practices they conduct in the clinical setting (O’Keefe, 2001). Increasingly, nurses are responsible to the public for their professional judgment and results arising from the decisions taken.
Malpractice litigation can be financially disastrous and emotionally devastating. Nurses should always try to diminish potential liability by using common sense. They should also try to maintain awareness of their legal responsibilities, build respectful, honest and open relationship as well as communication with patients and their families. A patient is less likely to sue if he feels that a nurse is professional and caring, maintains competence in the practice, and knows legal standards and regulations. If nurses incorporate them into practice, it will significantly diminish their potential liability.