The Legal Duty Of Nurses

Nursing practice forms a crucial component in the health of the public at large. Because of this essential role, it requires a specialized knowledge, skills, and sound decision making capabilities that can and are monitored by law enforcing agencies. Nurse’s duties traverse through a transient, sophisticated society and customers. This results to hazards that come forthwith during provision of this important care.

The patients too have rights that should never be infringed, e.g. they must consent to be attended to in whichever means, which may be contrary to certain occasions when nurses have to speak for patients. In order to protect the rights of these patients and ensure they access quality care, along with helping them obtain necessary information together with services and guarding the nurse from any breach of law, comes with it ethical other than legal measures, and the professional standards to promote, guide and direct these professionals (Regulations, 2010) 2010)Legal duties of nurses.

The nurses provide essential part in the realm of health and to which patients are on the other hand entitled to by the law. In certain occasions the patients require guidance on achievement of health in a number of circumstances. In the USA, nurses as advocates of the patient are recognized in the patients bill of rights that was promulgated by American Hospital Association (AHA), whose provisions delineate that duties have to be performed with great preferential concerns for the patient and with recognition of dignity for human beings. Upholding dignity of patient s further extends to their rights of refusal to medical care thus requirement for patient advocacy whose origin is from impacts of illness in patient’s ability and autonomy to make decisions. (Markus, 1989) As the advocates of the patients, nurses have legal together with ethical duties in providing appropriate education and supporting the processes of making of informed consent.

This entire process tables with it a requisition for exploring the nature and extents of the legal duties of care in regards to ensuring contemporary healthcare practicing. (Young, 2009) The laws and statutes come in handy thereof. The code of practice spreads across all the practitioners, whether it is in hospitals, residential homes, prisons, agencies, health centers schools or companies. In reference to American Nurses Association’s stipulations of the standards of professional nursing practice that are binding duties to registered nurses in all categories and are expected comply. The legal duties of nurses cannot however be treated in isolation without considering ethical perspective of their roles. The nurses scope of work is dynamic and sometimes a really challenging environment, from dealing to extreme medical conditions such as fatal and emergency accidents to psychological situations. Therefore, it is essential for nurses to know these standards and scope of practice, which are fundamental guides to excellence in the practice and also to beware of their legal implications.

Some of the general roles of nurses include:

  • The assessment and planning of nursing care requirements.
  • Offering emotional support to patients and relatives
  • Collection of samples from patients and taking other clinical measurements like temperatures.
  • Providing pre- and post-operation care to patients.
  • Writing records Nurses cooperation with the law

The role of nurses in the society as a whole as mentioned earlier is so important and thus vulnerable, i.e. quacks could infiltrate the course of health as a means of making cash, the practitioners themselves may fail to observe the rights of the patients among other malpractices and thus, each category in the healthcare sector state licensed nurses, there are set laws and regulations which outline the scope of practice and also outline oversight authority that are provided for in the professional regulatory boards. In most cases, law enforcement bodies have acts that serve as a guideline to the practice of nursing and also licensure requirements. This is a prerequisite in nursing and any practice outside the scope provided opens the individuals to civil liability that leads to censorship by the board of nursing. Thus, it’s important that nurses are versed with these standards and regulations as the foundational guide in the practice and ensuring excellence and being wary of the legal implications in case of breach. Some of the penalties that can be imposed by licensing boards for violating the Nursing Practice Act include: Establishment of a period of probation, issuing of a formal reprimand, suspending the nurse, or revoking his or her license. Unfortunately, most nurses aren’ familiar with health care laws and rely only on the authorities within their employment setting to know the legal and permissible activities in their course of duty.

Considering the legal issues associated in nursing, the practice of every individual is regulated through these principles of laws and ethics (Cave, 2016), statutory law and common law. These are the laws govern the conduct of nurses. a) Statutory law.

In case of violation of the law, the nurses are subjected to disciplinary action which could include: levying monetary fines, suspending or revocation of the license of the nurse, and could even result to imprisonment under certain instances.

For example, the emergency medical treatment and active labor is a federal statute, that is often called the anti-dumping law, was enacted in 1986 requires that everyone presenting for health care must receive equal medical attention be stabilized without looking down upon on their financial capabilities or insurance coverage before being discharged or transferred.The Americans with disabilities act of 1990 was also enacted to put an end to discrimination against persons with disabilities, especially by clearing out barriers that prevented them from acquiring same opportunities that were available to people without disabilities.

Patient self-determination act of 1990 is also a federal statute with the intention of supporting persons as they seek preferences about medical attention and making decisions The nurses are often named within the context of the available statutes as part of health professionals, whose actions can be reported of specified problems for which penalty of fines or imprisonment may arise. Some of the reportable cases are: abuse of dependent elder, infant and child abuse abuses among others.

For the control and regulation, there is also the Institutional Licensing Laws that require all facilities providing health care services to be in compliance with licensing laws promulgated by state legislatures. These laws also protect the public and ensure that the provision of health care is safe and effective.(b) Common law. This is also known as decisional or judge-made law. It emanated from cases presided over in federal and other state courts. These opinions eventually established the expected standard of nursing conduct (Trandel-Korenchuk and Trandel-Korenchuk, 1997). The opinions about nurses are also called nursing case laws. These are important in the establishment of the current standards of practice and cannot be overstated.

The duty in prevention of harm is known as the nurse’s “affirmative duty,” has been reaffirmed in several court decisions. Among other legalities associated with the nurses are the malpractices, which have come to constitute the nursing malpractice cases.

Other experienced judicial issues include: Lawsuits involving claim of violation of the nurse’s civil rights among other rights free speech scenarios and reasonable cases involving accommodating nurses with disabilities and questions concerning the labor laws and collective bargaining. Others also include lawsuits alleging wrongful terminations, challenges to the legalities with state board of nursing, to take disciplinary actions against nurse’s license. There exists also what is known as a tort. A tort is defined as a civil injury or wrong committed by a person against someone else. There are two types of torts: an unintentional tort or wrong and an intentional tort. An unintentional tort, is a wrong committed without any intention to do so. For example, malpractice and negligence (Pozgar, 2012)Negligence can be defined as failure to act reasonably and prudently (Ferrel, 2015)

Malpractice is also a type of negligence characterized by failure of a person with specialized education and training or generally a professional and in to this case the registered nurse, to act unreasonably and in a prudent manner. These are caused by a variety of factors including fatigue, incases of long and complicated duties (Geiger Brown, 2010)


Cave, M. B. (2016). Medicine, Patients and the Law. In M. Brazier, Medicine, Patients and the Law. Manchester University Press.

Ferrel, K. (2015). Nurses Legal Handbook. Wolters Kluwer.Geiger Brown, J. a. (2010). Is it Time to Pull on 12-hour Shifts? Journal on nursing administration, 40(3).

Markus, K. (1989). Nurses as Patients Advocate. Santa Clara Law Review.Pozgar, G. D. (2012). Legal Aspects Of Health Care Administration. Medical Laws and Regulation.Regulations. (2010). Journal on Nursing Regulation.

Young, A. (2009). Legal duty for care of clinical nurses and other health professionals. Journal of Clinical Nursing.