As an NP am I liable working as an RN?

Dear Nurse Beth Advice Column - The following letter submitted anonymously in search for answers. Join the conversation! Nurses Nurse Beth Nursing Q/A


If I became an NP in California. And I did bedside nursing as an RN, what are the legal risks? I am told that I am legally responsible for all the RN's on that floor if I hold an NP Certification. There is so little information on these types of questions. Besides allnurses where can I go to ask these questions. I ask an NP and I get completely different answers for each person I ask.

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

This is an excellent question, and you have valid concerns. First, know that many NPs work as bedside RNs at some point for different reasons.

Second, your NP Program will answer many of your questions, and you have time.

When you seek information from others, it's essential to verify the credibility and reliability of the sources you consult. To do that, ask, "What is your source?"

I do not know who told you that you are legally responsible for the RNs on the floor as an NP working as an RN, but do not ask that person for information again.

When working as an RN, you are working under a provider and not as a provider yourself. As a bedside RN, you do not supervise other RNs. They practice under their own license.

Tip: As you begin your career, be credible yourself. Being analytical and a critical thinker will help you in your career and make you a better clinician. Only pass on information you know to be correct. Wherever you work, get to know the policies and procedures. Know the standards of best practice.

When navigating the legal responsibilities and risks of becoming an NP in California, especially when transitioning from bedside nursing to an RN, it is crucial to seek reliable information and advice to understand your obligations and potential liabilities. Here are some steps you can take to clarify your concerns:

  • Legal Resources. Consider consulting legal resources specializing in healthcare law. They can provide you with expert advice tailored to your specific situation and jurisdiction. Look for law firms or legal professionals with experience in California's healthcare law, such as the American Association of Nurse Attorneys.
  • Professional Associations. Joining professional associations for NPs can be invaluable. Organizations such as the California Association for Nurse Practitioners (CANP) or the American Association for Nurse Practitioners (AANP) often offer resources, educational materials, and networking opportunities. They may also guide on legal matters affecting NPs in California. Subscribe to a relevant professional journal and read it.
  • State Regulatory Boards. Contact the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) to inquire about specific legal responsibilities for NPs in the state. They can provide you with information on regulations, scope of practice, and any legal liabilities you may encounter.
  • Continuing Education. Consider attending workshops, seminars, or continuing education courses on legal issues in nursing and nurse practitioner practice. These events often cover topics such as liability, risk management, and legal regulations relevant to healthcare professionals.
  • Networking. Networking may be the richest form of information because these are colleagues with lived experience. However, you have to be sure they are credible. Connect with other NPs in California, particularly those transitioning from RN to NP roles. They can share their experiences, insights, and advice regarding legal risks and responsibilities. Allnurses has a forum for advanced practice nurses.
  • Mentorship is very beneficial. Seek out an experienced NP in California. A mentor can provide guidance, answer your questions, and offer support as you navigate your new role and the associated legal considerations.
  • Take out insurance when you start to practice.
  • By educating yourself proactively and seeking guidance from trusted sources, you can better navigate the legal landscape as an NP in California.

In summary, educate yourself by researching. It allows you to make decisions without fear. Be that credible person. 

Best wishes on your journey,

Nurse Beth



Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

Carolyn Buppert, MSN, JD   Legal Nurse Expert for NPS  answered this question at Medscape: Yes with cautions.

As an NP am I liable working as an RN