Nursing Malpractice in Pennsylvania Hospitals
Like with doctors and medical malpractice, nursing malpractice occurs when a nurse fails to act in the way a reasonable nurse of similar training and experience would in similar circumstances, and that breach of the standard of care harms a patient. As nurses are responsible for much of the hands-on care for patients, there are many ways in which a nurse can harm a patient. However, in nursing malpractice cases, one issue that is just as important as whether the nurse committed malpractice is who is going to pay for the patient’s damages.
What Constitutes Nursing Malpractice?
It is important to note that not every unfortunate occurrence with a patient’s care rises to the level of medical malpractice. But nursing malpractice can occur in a variety of circumstances; the following are some of the most common incidents of malpractice.
Failing to Take Action
When patients have emergencies, nurses can be liable for failing to take immediate action, such as notifying the patient’s physician, administering medication, or taking some other action ordered by the doctor for that particular emergency. In addition, because nurses have a duty to monitor their patient’s condition, a nurse can be negligent for failing to notice an emergency condition when another reasonable nurse would have noticed.
Injuring a Patient
Nurses can be liable if they injure a patient by, for example:
- Dropping a patient after failing to use proper lifting techniques
- Failing to prevent bedsores
- Leaving objects inside after surgery
Improper Administration of Medication
Nurses are liable for improperly administering medication, whether that be a failure to administer medication according to a physician’s orders, administering too much or too little medication, or administering medication to the wrong patient.
Who Is Liable for Nursing Malpractice?
In a nursing malpractice case, the parties must determine who, besides the nurse herself or himself, is responsible for the nurse’s negligence. This inquiry usually comes down to two parties: the hospital and the attending physician.
A hospital can be held financially responsible for a nurse’s malpractice if the case fulfills three criteria:
- The nurse was employed by the hospital
- The nurse was performing the duties of her job in causing the patient to be injured
- A doctor, not employed by the hospital, was not controlling the nurse’s performance at the time of the patient’s injury
An attending physician may be held financially responsible for a nurse’s negligence if the doctor is not employed by the hospital and was present when the nurse’s negligence occurred and had control to prevent the negligence. However, the hospital may still be financially responsible as well for a nurse’s negligence when the doctor directs a nurse to take an improper act and the nurse knows or should have known the act was improper but does it anyway.
How Do I Prove Nursing Malpractice?
As with medical malpractice claims, you will need to have a qualified expert on nursing give opinion testimony as to what a reasonable nurse of similar training and experience would have done in a similar scenario. In most states, your expert must also be qualified in the same field of nursing as the nurse on trial.
In some cases, the nurse’s negligence is so obvious that expert testimony is unnecessary; for example, if a nurse leaves a sponge inside a surgical patient.
Contact a Pittsburgh Nursing Malpractice Lawyer to Discuss Your Medical Malpractice Case Today
Nurses are the front line of health care. Unfortunately, that means there are numerous ways a patient can be injured. If you or a loved one suffered an injury, or worse, due to nursing negligence or abuse in Pennsylvania, you need to speak with a qualified attorney as soon as possible. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Berger & Lagnese, LLC represent clients throughout Western Pennsylvania including Pittsburgh, Washington, Greensburg, and Erie. Call (412) 471-4300 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a free consultation today. We have an office conveniently located at 310 Grant St., #720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.