Nurse legal liabilities

Nurse legal liabilities  

Nurse legal liabilities  

Nurse legal liabilities. The American Nurses Association (ANA) has prescribed professional standards for nursing practice that place liability on registered nurses and nurse managers to uphold professional conduct and exemplify the highest level of profeAssional competence in practice (ANA, 2012). Besides, ANA stipulates that these standards are continuously updated to reflect the evolving circumstances in clinical practice. Since nursing attained the professional specialty practice, it has become necessary for nurse managers to comprehend the standards, guidelines and their legal liabilities in professional practice.

General definition of the topic and purpose of paper

Common legal liabilities for nurse managers refers to mandatory standards of care and professional codes of practice that all nurse managers must comply with in the performance of duties as health care administrators. This liability results from the different federal and state laws that govern the nursing profession.  Since the enactment of The Nurse Protection Act (1975), civil and criminal cases against nurses for professional malpractice have been on the rise thus necessitating the need for research on the common legal liabilities of nurse managers. The research paper explores the common legal liabilities that nurse managers face in the course of their professional practice.

The legal liabilities of Nurse Managers

The legal liabilities of nurse managers have a direct impact on the quality of health care outcome. This is because the legal environment defines their professional duties, responsibilities as well as limits. Thus nurse managers have a liability to dispense their services within the confines of the legal definition of the nursing professional standards equivalent to their qualifications (ANA, 2012). Therefore it’s incumbent upon every nurse manager to understand these guidelines and the nursing standards of care while making professional judgment. These guidelines establish work limits for both the average nurse and nurse managers alike. The legal liabilities are derived from different state and federal laws that define how nursing practice ought to be conducted (Caroll, 2016). Other legal liabilities for nurse managers emanate from diverse government affiliated agencies such as Medicare. Therefore nurse managers can face possible civil or criminal liabilities as a result of their public or private practice. Therefore as administrators in the healthcare environments, nurse managers are legally obligated to understand all pertinent legal liabilities that they have towards the patient in the healthcare environment (Fiesta, 2013). The legal framework that comprise the standards of care for practicing nurses is broad and evolves in tandem with the transformation of the nursing environment.  Since the classification of nursing as a specialty profession and subsequent enactment of nurse protection laws, cases of negligence and professional malpractice against nurses have continued to increase. Nurse Managers are therefore legally regarded as professionals who have specialty knowledge and advanced education and therefore are liable for professional misconduct or negligence of duty (Caroll, 2016). 

Nurse Managers have a legal liability of ensuring that all cases of professional malpractice are well documented and promptly reported. Professional malpractice is defined as any form of professional misconduct or any act of omission or commission that can be classified as a breach of a nurse’s fiduciary responsibilities (Fiesta, 2013). Thus indirectly, nurse managers may be held liable for professional malpractice or negligence that happens under their leadership if it’s proved that they could have averted the situation had they acted professionally. While the individual nurse responsible for the misconduct will be held personally liable, a nurse manager’s role in relation to the incidence can be reviewed to ascertain any professional negligence that might have contributed to the commission or omission (Trott, 2011). Thus all nurse managers should understand all the causation aspects in a case of negligence. Based on the four facets of what constitutes professional negligence, nurse managers have a legal liability to perform all their legally mandated professional duties in accordance with the relevant standards of care. Secondly, the nurse manager can be legally liable for breach of duty or failure to uphold a local or national standard of care. Therefore, they must ensure that there exists no causal relationship between a nurse’s act of professional misconduct and their duty as healthcare managers (Caroll, 2016). If a causal relationship is established, then nurse managers will be held responsible for professional misconduct. 

Nurse Managers have a legal liability to maintain a proper record of all patient care related events including breach of duty and other malpractices performed by nurses. Given their legal recognition as professionals, nurse managers have a liability of ensuring that they act reasonably based on the level of their professional qualification and in a manner that another qualified nurse manager would have done (Fiesta, 2013). They are legally mandated to employ the same level of professionalism in their practice as would have been done by an average nurse professional in a similar circumstance. Additionally, nurse managers are obligated to exercise utmost care in ensuring that patients are protected as much as possible from avoidable harm. Under the standards of care, all nurses are indebted to exemplify the same level of professional and academic qualification as others practicing in the same position (Trott, 2011). Still, nurses are legally liable for any cases of non-compliance corresponding to their educational and professional level. Thus nurse managers are liable for any failure to reflect a practice level that is commensurate with their education. For instance, an occupational nurse manager is legally liable for his failure to comply with the stipulated occupational health standards (Fiesta, 2013). 

As healthcare administrators, nurse managers must be cognizant with the diverse federal and state laws relating to their specific area of practice. They must therefore comply with the relevant standards of care, since if a breach is established, they can be held legally responsible. These can occur as either acts of omission or commission. Nurse Managers must also document communication between physicians and nurses and report any failures that could amount to professional negligence for prompt corrective action. Documentation is a critical component of their administrative role and can be used by case managers to establish causation between the nurse’s action and the patient’s injury (Trott, 2011). Lack of documentation on the proximate cause or the link between the act and the injury can be interpreted as supervisory negligence of which the nurse manager should be liable for. If a direct causation is established between the nurse manager’s act or lack of it and the patient’s injury, then a legal liability would be imposed (Caroll, 2016). Nevertheless, the legal standard for ordinary nurses differs from that of advanced nurses due to their disparate educational requirements. 

According to Fiesta (2013), The Privacy Act (1974) places legal liability upon nurse managers to ensure privacy of patient data both in storage, use and distribution. The HIPAA legal requirements obligate nurse managers to ensure that patients get access to their medical records within a maximum period of 30 days, failure to which they can face a law suit if a proximate causation is established. Besides, they can be liable for breach of the privacy act in the event of disclosure of a patient’s medical information and could face both civil and criminal charges (Trott, 2011). Still, nurse managers have a duty of ensuring that appropriate corrective action is taken against nurses who get negative peer reviews, failure to which they can be held liable for any future cases of malpractice by the same nurse if a causation is established (Fiesta, 2013). They must also ensure full adherence to all licensure and practice requirements, and frequently conduct and document peer reviews as required by their practice standards, failure to which they may be liable for breach of professional conduct under the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (1986). Another common legal liability for nurse managers is ensuring that patients receive written information pertaining to their absolute right to make their own medical care decisions, and specifically, decisions to do with their end-of-life (Caroll, 2016). Therefore nurse managers have a legal liability of ensuring that they operate within the scope of their professional practice in accordance with the professional practice regulations and licensure requirements. Lastly, they are legally mandated to report and document all cases of child or elder abuse that happen under their supervision (Trott, 2011).

Nurse Managers occupy a prominent position in the healthcare system. Due to their advanced nursing practice qualification, they handle policy and administrative duties within the healthcare environment. Subsequently, they are subject to various legal liabilities that emanate from the nursing standard of care and other professional codes of practice. Therefore, Nurse Managers must constantly acquaint themselves with the prevailing legal liabilities of their profession.

Need for future Research

The modern nursing environment is rapidly changing and so are the standards and statutory regulations that govern the profession. Therefore new statutes are constantly emerging while the existing ones are regularly modified to suit the prevailing needs of patients care. Therefore nurse managers must constantly research on the common legal liabilities of their profession as these are bound to change with time.


American Nurses Association. (2012). Nursing: Scope and standards of practice (3rd ed.). Silver Spring, MD: Author.

Carroll, R. (Eds.). (2016). Risk          management handbook for health care organizations (4th     ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fiesta, J. (2013). Labor law update–part 2. Nursing Management, 28(2), 20-1. Retrieved from

Trott, M. C. (2011). Legal issues for nurse managers. Nursing Management, 29(6), 38-41; quiz    42. Retrieved from


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