Patients may be able to recover damages when nursing malpractice or negligence causes them harm. People in Indiana rely on nurses and other medical providers to provide routine, emergent, and sometimes, life-saving care. When nursing professionals fail to appropriately assess and monitor patients’ conditions, use equipment improperly, are negligent in communicating, or otherwise deviate from the accepted standard of care, hospitals, doctors, and the nurses themselves may be held liable for injuries caused by nursing negligence.
What Is Nursing Malpractice?
Nursing malpractice occurs when nurses fail to perform their jobs in the same way a competent nurse in a comparable situation might be expected to perform and patients are injured. Nursing malpractice may involve direct or indirect contact with patients. Although communication failures account for just under 30% of medical malpractice claims filed against nurses, medication errors, mistakes with routine procedures, and neglecting to provide adequate care often spark lawsuits as well. Medical mistakes and negligence are prevalent in all types of healthcare settings, but over 75% of nursing malpractice happens in hospitals.
Common types of nursing malpractice include:
Failure to Assess and Monitor
Nurses are charged with monitoring patients and assessing their conditions. Nursing professionals monitor patients’ vital signs, symptoms, and conditions. Changes in patient conditions may occur quickly or gradually, and nurses are often the first to notice such deviations. Failing to track patient vitals and symptoms, neglecting to take action like administering medication, or failing to notify the attending physician when significant changes occur could cause patients to suffer serious harm or otherwise worsened conditions.
Failure to Follow Standards of Care
Owing a duty of care to their patients, nursing professionals and other health care providers must adhere to a set of standards when providing medical care. These standards are not clearly specified. They are based on the actions that a health care professional with similar qualifications would take under the same or similar circumstances. Providing care that is not in line with these standards is substandard care, and should it result in patient injury, may qualify as medical malpractice.
Failure to Document and Communicate
One of nurses’ primary duties is to chart patients’ vitals, symptoms, and other pertinent information. When nurses use incorrect terminology or omit important information, doctors lack the details they need to accurately assess patients’ conditions, diagnose them, or make an appropriate plan of care.
Should patients experience significant changes in their health statuses, nurses are charged with notifying the attending physicians so appropriate action can be taken. Failing to note such changes or to immediately inform the overseeing doctors could be considered negligence on the part of nursing professionals.
Additionally, nurses are charged with communicating with patients about their discharge instructions. Without understanding the details regarding any medications or necessary follow up care, patients may suffer worsened conditions after returning home. This could lead to serious harm or death. Further, patients may not recognize the warning signs of a more severe health condition, and thus, neglect to seek timely medical treatment.
About 90% of communication errors occur in labor and delivery, surgery, and emergency departments.
What Damages Are Recoverable in Nursing Malpractice Claims?
Patients who suffer harm due to the negligent, mistaken, or otherwise inappropriate actions of nursing professionals may recover compensatory damages for their economic and non-economic losses. The economic losses for which people may receive damages include the costs of their associated medical expenses and lost income. Non-economic losses include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment, and loss of consortium.
The state places a cap on the amount of damages patients can receive for losses resulting from medical malpractice claims. Under state law, patients cannot recover damages in excess of $1.8 million for incidents occurring after June 30, 2019. In order to obtain compensation for losses resulting from nursing malpractice incidents, patients must take action within a specified amount of time. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice-related claims in the state is two years.
Who Is Liable for Nursing Errors and Negligence?
While licensed nursing professionals may commit malpractice, the medical facility where the negligence or errors occurred or the attending doctor at the time of the malpractice incident may be held financially responsible for patients’ associated losses as well. Financial responsibility may fall to the hospital or medical facility in cases when the nurses involved were employees of such facilities, fulfilling a job duty at the time of patient injuries, or under the supervision of a physician not employed by the health care facility. Attending physicians may face liability for the negligence or mistakes of nurses in cases when they are present at the time of the mistreatment and had control to prevent the situations from occurring.