Being Sued / Losing License

Nurses Professionalism


It seems that about 2/3rds of the posts on here mention either being sued or losing your doesn't seem to matter what the topic is someone makes a comment about losing your license or being sued.

I am curious as to whether this is a valid fear or whether this is part of fear-based nursing culture.

1. How many years have you been a nurse?

2. How many nurses do you know personally that have been sued?

3. How many of those nurses who were sued have had to testify in court?

4. How many of those who testified were found guilty?

5. How many nurses do you know personally who have lost their license for patient related (non-criminal) actions? (By non - criminal I mean not for cases of drug diverting or robbing a back or something where the nurse knows what they are doing is illegal and will result in losing their license)


MikeyJ, RN

1,124 Posts

Specializes in Peds, PICU, Home health, Dialysis.

2/3 of posts relate to being sued and losing license? I actually cannot remember the last time I read a posting related to either of these topics.

I have only been a nurse for a few years but have never known anyone to lose their license or get sued.


1 Article; 1,905 Posts

I personally know three nurses who have lost their license. One was over a miscommunication that lead to a med error and two were diversion related. I cannot say on the law suit; however, several have occurred with my various employers and it is possible if not likely that I have been named, yet all the suits were settled out of court and it is likely that I will never know how many times I've been named.

Edit: I agree that the 2/3 comment was just a little dramatic; however, many nurses are quick to thrown down the I'll loose my license or be sued comment during the various conversations on this site. They are more of a scarecrow IMHO, yet they do occur. However, I think living a life in fear of these possibilities is counterproductive to personal health and professional performance.


155 Posts

I can't say anything for getting sued but if you go to the website for your state BON they sometimes have the minutes from their hearings/meetings available for download. I was surprised at the amount of nurses in these meetings who went before the board for DUI, drug diverting, practicing outside of the scope of nursing etc. I won't say there were tons, but enough to make me realize how prized my license will be to me.


132 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, School Nurse.

This is a situation that I am a little familiar with.The nurse in this situation was fired (I don't know about her license). The Veteran's Home is being sued, and she is named in the suit. The reason for her being fired, is that she did not personally check to make sure the resident received the correct diet. The resident allegedly choked on meat and died.

I know that I did not check every tray for my patients before it was placed in front of them.


323 Posts

Specializes in CT stepdown, hospice, psych, ortho.

I only know one person that lost their license and it was for an illegal act. No, I take that back. I remember hearing about one nurse in a hospital I worked at that ended up losing her license after running an entire bag of heparin in like an antibiotic. But I didn't know her personally so it could have a rumor. I did, however, take care of that patient about a year later and see how paranoid he was about medication and he told me point blank it happened to him and he nearly died so I totally believe that the heparin was run in like that. What happened to her, can't say but she's not a nurse at ____ anymore.

I do know a few that have had to testify in suits and who have possible suits looming over there heads. All of them are OR nurses that except one was an L&D nurse.

And how is this for something that nobody got sued over?? A very close friend of mine went into preterm labor and had to be transported out of a local hospital that I worked at prn. It was a smallish hospital and there was no eMAR or scan system in the L&D side of things. She was stabalized with a mag sulfate drip and sent to a hospital about 45 mins down the road with a NICU in the back on an ambulance. The husband was sent home to get some clothes for her and told not to rush. She gets to the hospital and as she is being checked by the resident they notice she's totally dialated and PITOCIN is infusing into her!!!!! whiskey. tango. foxtrot.

Excuse me, I have made med errors. But really? REALLY? Doesn't emtala or common sense or something mandate that more than one person visualize what is infusing into a patient you are about to transport?

So I went back to work the next night thinking the crap was going to hit the fan and thinking it totally should. The nurse in question did not lose her job but I cannot say if she was disciplined. We didn't get a scanning system in L&D. It seemed like nothing was done. Maybe it was me being naive in thinking something big would happen after that. The friend and her husband were told by a lawyer that because the baby survived and spent only about five weeks in a NICU and then a stepdown nursery that there was no point in bringing a suit. I was shocked. They wouldn't get a second opinion no matter how many of our friends implored them to.

I was torn. What a massive error! OMG. I have never made an error like that (knock on wood!) and I hope to God I never do. Of coure my knee jerk reaction is to say "What a fool! Take her license before she kills someone!" But you never know what was going on and what if it had been me in that position.... The same process break down that causes a little med error can cause a big one, right? The eMAR scanner has saved me more than once and this nurse didn't have that luxury. Then again, I've worked with a paper mar doing insulin, dopamine, cardizem, heparin drips and never come close to making that kind of error. Whatever happened, I hope now she is the most obsessive, check and recheck, triple check, check this for me, wouldya? kind of nurse there is

Emergency RN

544 Posts

Specializes in ED, CTSurg, IVTeam, Oncology.

Several years ago, I remember once wandering to the web page of New York State's Education Department License Division (they're the ones who grants and disciplines all NYS professional licenses) and looking up the revocation and suspensions of nurses; the results were eye opening. The majority, and I mean like 99 out of 100, of cause for license action was related to improper activity with controlled substances (theft, diversion, substitution, etc). Very, very rarely, did I see anything related to improper clinical care. Further, I was not able to find a single example of action taken for abandonment.


188 Posts

Interesting info - thanks! The ones that bunsterj and cb_rn mentioned are kind of what I was wondering about. OR being higher makes sense - a lot of the times on here it seems the comments are related to LTC or home health or low staffing or facility I was curious if nurses are actually losing their license over these things. Scary story cb_rn so glad the baby was okay.

I get the lose your license for diversion / DUI - insert any deliberate action that is knowingly illegal - and it seems like most of the ones that get published or these kind. Those are rarely the posts on here though.

And GilaRN - do they not have to tell you if you've been named in a suit? I always thought they did.

Interesting Emergency_Rn - that is my gut feeling too - that very few are for improper care type issues. That's why I find it surprising that so many nurses here seem to be worried / in fear of losing their license.

Looks like so far we've got

1 (maybe) for a med error, 1 for an incorrect diet/choking and 1 for a miscommunication/ med error...

allnurses Guide


7,073 Posts

Specializes in Peds/outpatient FP,derm,allergy/private duty.

wherehastimegone. . .

1. How many years have you been a nurse? Licensed in 1976-- left and returned (mommy track) total=21

2. How many nurses do you know personally that have been sued? None. I knew a nurse who made a fatal med error, she was not sued. Her employer was.

3., 4. N/A due to above.

5. How many nurses do you know personally who have lost their license for patient related (non-criminal) actions? (By non - criminal I mean not for cases of drug diverting or robbing a back or something where the nurse knows what they are doing is illegal and will result in losing their license) None.

I think the frequent mentioning of losing a license is along the lines of "worst case scenario", and often is included along with a discussion of unsafe practices (short staffing, sloppy narcotic records, etc) that can result in harm or death to a patient and the loss of one's license. I think of it sort of like airline pilots with all their checks and double checks. Could they drop half of those without an appreciable uptick in crashes? If we had the 4 Rights of med administration would there be med errors left and right- probably not. When the stakes of screwing up are high, we are hyper-vigilant.


123 Posts

1. how many years have you been a nurse? 24

2. how many nurses do you know personally that have been sued? one

3. how many of those nurses who were sued have had to testify in court? none

4. how many of those who testified were found guilty? n/a

5. how many nurses do you know personally who have lost their license for patient related (non-criminal) actions? (by non - criminal i mean not for cases of drug diverting or robbing a back or something where the nurse knows what they are doing is illegal and will result in losing their license) i know one nurse that surrendered his license due to failure to pay child support [contested paternity later and won case].

the only other cases i that i know personally involve drug diversions.


14,633 Posts

I've been an RN for 25 years; I've never personally known of a nurse being sued, but I worked as a hospital surveyor for my state and CMS for several years and, in that capacity, investigated many situations which were obviously likely to end up as lawsuits and the hospitals had identified a "scapegoat" RN and were already laying the groundwork (in their dealings with my agency's investigation) to blame that nurse in court in an attempt to minimize the facility's liability. Some of those nurses may have ended up in court -- I don't know because any lawsuit would have happened long after my involvement in the situation ended.

I have known one nurse, personally, who lost her license for a clinical-related situation (nothing to do with diverting drugs, etc.) that involved a client death. She eventually got it back and returned to nursing (but not clinical, bedside nursing). However, keep in mind that this is not the sort of thing people would chat about with coworkers. Any of us may have known and worked with any number of nurses who have have disciplinary/licensure issues in the past, and we wouldn't necessarily know about it.

bagladyrn, RN

2,286 Posts

Specializes in OB.

I've been one of the nurses who has been sued. Since they named ALL the nurses on the unit that shift in the suit I also know several others who have been sued. Since I never cared for the patient and was actively caring for another critical patient at the time of the incident I was able to be dropped from the suit after giving a deposition. However I still had to retain a lawyer and go through all the stress before being dropped.

It doesn't matter whether you do anything wrong or not - you can still be sued. Doesn't mean you'll lose the suit but it's still something I wouldn't ever want to go through again so I take it very seriously and will do what I can both to avoid the circumstances and to document with the thought in mind at all times that a lawyer could be reviewing it.

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