Legal Issues in Nursing



LegalIssues in Nursing



TheYou Tube video presents three key issues

Issue1: The Impaired Nurse

TheImpaired nurse comes to work drunk or high. The nurse constantlydozes off and takes breaks during the work session. It can be statedthat Nurse Jackie has violated the requirements stipulated by theNurses Practice Act. According to the Act, nurses should not getinvolved in unethical actions such alcohol or drug abuse in theworkplace. The Act clearly defines alcohol and drug abuse as actionsthat can lead to suspension or revoking a license.


A number of ethical issues relate to the impaired nurse scenario.Foremost, an ethical issue that arises is the lack of accountability.According to provision 4 of the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses, thenurse is accountable and responsible for their personal nursingpractice and the delegated work (ANA, 2001). The nurse shouldtherefore perform assigned tasks as required and on the stipulatedtime. Nurse Jackie violates the accountability code of ethics eachtime she arrives 30 Minutes late and is on breaks constantly.

TheANA Code of Ethics for Nurses also recommends thatthere is needfor intervention when the safety of the patient is an issue. Thevideo shows that Jackie’s fellow work mates are aware of herabusive behaviour. In addition, the manner in which she prescribesdrugs to her patient is unprofessional. However, the workmates do notreport her unethical behavior to the management. In most cases asWestrick and Dempski, (2009) highlight, the coworkers of an impairednurse frequently struggle with the ethical dilemma of whether toreport such situations or not. However, it is essential for theother nurses to report Nurse Jackie in order for her to gettreatment.

Professionalnursing action

The professional nursing action that should be taken in thisscenario is to report the matter to the management. Although NurseJackie may perceive the act as betrayal but it is essential for themanagement to be aware about what she is going through in order forher to get treatment.

Issue2: Informed Consent

Inthis video, the nurse makes the patient sign a consent form whilesedated. Informed consent basically aims at ascertaining that thepatientcan make their own decision as a result no one is supposedto give any type of treatment or perform a procedure without theconsent of the patient or care giver. By giving the patient theform to sign, the nurse does follow the informed consent requirement,however various ethical issues arise in the scene.


According to the American Medical Association Code of ethics opinion8.08, informed consent should be honored unless the patient isincapable of consenting for instance if they are unconscious or notin the right state of mind to sign the form. The nurse in the videoviolates this code of conduct because she provides the form to apatient who is sedated and not in the right state of mind to sign theform.

Additionally, the AME Code of ethics requires that the physicianshould take the patient through the form by disclosing all thesignificant medical facts to the patients. In the video the nursedoes not communicate effectively to the patient concerning thecontents of the form as a result, instead of signing the patientswrites irrelevant information.

Professionalnursing action

Inorder to correct the situation, the most professional nursing actionis to do away with the form signed by the sedated patient. The nurseshould then give the patient’s daughter to sign the form on behalfof her mother.



TheHealth Information Portability and Accountability Actof 1996 (HIPAA), set forth the protection of individuallyidentifiable health information. The nurse in this context violatedthe requirements of the acts by puttingprivate information of a patient, which happens to be a celebrity, onFacebook.


The Privacy rule permits a medical professional to access the medialrecords of a celebrity, howeverthe distribution of the informationwithout the consent of the patient is unethical. In this context, thenurse violated the Privacy rule by disclosing medical informationabout the celebrity on social media.

Professionalnursing action

The nurse should immediately delete the information she posted onFacebook. In addition, it also essential to send her for disciplinaryaction in order for others to learn.


TheKimberly Hiatt Case

From a legal perspective, it can be stated that fatal medical errorjust like in the Kimberly Hiatt scenario are actually liable forprosecution. Taking the case through trial is essential in order toexamine whether death occurred as a result of negligence, medicalerror or a planned intention.

Ethically, it can be stated that medical errors are not a requiredbehaviour for nurses. This is because nurses have to be careful atall times. However if a nurse commits an error unintentionally thenit can be excusable however a repeat of that should not take place.

Professionally,the dismissal or suspicion of a nurse who commits a medial error isusually justified in order to uphold the integrity of the hospitalessentially to the public. Nevertheless, if investigations areconducted and the nurse is not found liable then she/ he should bereinstated. On professional grounds it was justified for KimberlyHiatt to be dismissed however if investigations proved that she wasinnocent, then she would get her job back, unfortunately shecommitted suicide before that happened.

IfI was in Kimberly’s situation I would not have resigned. Committingsuicide was not the solution to resolve the problem. The manner inwhich she handled it makes it seem that she was guilty. If she trulybelieved that she was innocent, she would have testified against theaccusation. In my opinion, the manner in which she handled thesituation by committing suicide encourages people faced with suchsituations to do the same. I think that what she did was totallywrong. I believe that you should not run from your troubles, but youshould face them.


Themost challenging aspect of the nursing profession is committingmedial errors. Nurses are bound to commit errors at one point oftheir career in terms of the administration of drugs, their dosageper patient and time of administration. This is a delicate situationsince in most cases the patient’s daily care and wellbeing is leftin the nurse’s hands. Provision of proper training is necessary forpatient health to be maintained.

Anotherchallenging aspect of the nursing profession is the technicalknowhow. Most nurses are unable to tackle even the basic tasksdiligently for instance drug administration, patient dietary andcare.

Theleast difficult and most interesting part of nursing is the abilityof a nurse(s) to interact freely with patients (people) fromdifferent backgrounds regardless of race, color or creed. This is dueto the day to day contact between patient and nurse and nurse andpatient’s next of kin on issues regarding the patient’s progress.

My greatest challenge in Nursing School is making a separationbetween my social life and completing the course. The nursingprofessional is very serious and requires adequate concentration andclass attendance. As a result, foregoing some aspects of my sociallife is the hardest challenge.


AmericanNurses Association (ANA). (2001).Code of ethics for nurses withinterpretative statements. Silver Spring.

AmericanMedical Association Code of ethics. Opinion 8.08 – Informed Consent. AMA.

Westrick,S and Dempski, K. (2009). Essentials of Nursing Law and Ethics.Jones &amp Bartlett Learning.