Guest Contributor

5 Legal & Professional Issues for Nurses

By | Rebecca Siggers

Health is one of the primary concerns for most individuals today. When one falls sick, they tend to consult a healthcare professional immediately. In doing so, they commit themselves entirely to the care and protection of the medical professional’s knowledge and care.

What if the standard of care of such medical staff, doctor, or nurse is not duly met? What if the resultant lack of care causes serious implications and adverse medical conditions? In such cases, is there any liability owed to the medical professional? The answer to all these questions lies in medical practice standards that must be complied with by doctors and nurses alike.

Medicine and law are intertwined in many areas. A few issues manifesting from it are professional. Thus, a nurse must understand and comply with such standards and protocols to administer proper and safe care.

Here are five legal and professional issues that they should know.

Confidentiality of the Details

One of the Core areas of privileged communication is the details of the treatment, illness, etc. that form part of communication confidentiality. Akin to attorney-client privilege, medical staff, including a nurse, is bound by oath not to reveal the elements of such privileged information to anyone.

It is standard practice and protocol that must be followed without exception. Privileged information of this kind stems from the right to privacy that is protecting the patient. This information significantly impacts the patient and his wellbeing. As such, the right to privacy is the ulterior agenda behind such a problem.

Confidentiality finds its way in almost every medical standard of practice code of conduct. It is also provided legal sanctity through enactments made by respective states. An Arizona Nurse Lawyer must be privy to such kinds of practice and must check compliance.

Consent In Treatment

Consent is again one of the most important nursing profession issues and the medical fraternity in general. Any medical staff or practitioner must ensure that the complete disclosure is given to the patient. The details regarding treatment and its impact must be made known to the patient and the next of kin.

Qualified consent is deemed to apply only when the patient fully understands the medical terms and context. Despite being aware of adverse impacts, if any, a patient gives their consent for the treatment only, can the treatment begin.

Although consent is a professional issue, its non-compliance can create serious legal concerns as well. Obtaining due and qualified consent before the treatment is one of the primary obligations of any healthcare worker. It is because consent serves as a safety valve should a treatment result in any complication.

Another important prerequisite is that the patient must be capable and of sound mind when giving the consent. Where the patient is not conscious or is under the influence of medication, consent can be obtained from the next of kin.

Medical Negligence

A patient under the care of a health worker or nurse or any other medical practitioner must assume a reasonable degree of care during treatment. Abrogation of such a degree of care and caution that can prove to impact the patient or lead to any other complication adversely is governed under medical negligence.

Medical negligence is strictly professional and legal compliance of the highest care and caution expected from the health worker. The legalese and statutory principles mandate a common assumption of care.

The same principles assume that should a complication arise later if manifesting from treatment, is the liability of said health worker treating the patient. It is the primary reason why nurses and medical staff are required to chart the course of the treatment and document every stage and patient response to it. Consequently, whatever is documented and charted will account for evidence in such a circumstance.

Staffing Issues:

Staffing and proper staff rotation are primarily the healthcare centre’s obligation. It is the nurse’s responsibility to ensure proper adherence to medical care. Not only this, but a nurse also has to ensure that the appropriate treatment protocol is safely administered to the patient.

As a nurse, you are required to effectively and safely perform the healthcare requirements of the patient. It is also incumbent upon a nurse to maintain the adequate staffing requirements that can take care of the patients admitted to the healthcare facility.

If there are holidays or other reasons causing shortages, then staffing requirements also cover effective staff rotation. In any case, staffing shortages should not adversely impact or non-compliance with proper and standard medical care and procedure.

Adequate staffing requirements as per compliance standards are also the responsibility of the hospital. But, in cases where there are staffing shortages, nurses must climb the command chain in a particular situation to administer effective treatment.


Communicating patient progress and impact of the treatment to the doctor and the nurse is one of the core areas. Staffing issues manifest from meeting the appropriate quality and standard of care to attend to patients’ daily roster.

At the same time, it is also important to note and know each stage of treatment progress and communicate the same to the patient and the doctor. These staffing requirements are professional compliance standards that are a must for a nurse to know.

Beyond this, emergency protocols and following pharmacological standards is another vital area governed under this. Communication of the procedures, treatments, impacts, and progress, if any, is vital.

A patient must be made fully aware of his medical condition and course of treatment aimed at curing it. Under such conditions, a nurse is duty-bound to facilitate communication between the doctor and the patient.

Final Thoughts

Most states adequately mandate under professional care standards and let others assume the reasonable standard of care. Therefore, regardless of legal status, a nurse must always exercise reasonable care and caution. It is crucial not only from a legal, professional, and ethical standpoint but also from the point of morality. The adverse impact of irrational care can cost someone their life!

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