If I quit my hospice job, is this patient abandonment?

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


I am an RN case manager in hospice. Our company is going downhill fast, and I am thinking about leaving. Because case managers have a relationship with patients that is long term, I am wondering how that impacts patient abandonment concepts. If we ALL (case managers) are worried about the chaos we're living under, and looking for new jobs, is the last nurse out the door going to be guilty of patient abandonment just because the company looks so bad they can't hire replacements? Our management team are also RNs. 

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Abandonment occurs when a nurse deserts or discontinues patient care without giving reasonable notice or making arrangements for continued care.

  • Your professional responsibility is to provide appropriate notice to your employer and, if possible, assist in transitioning your patients to new caregivers or facilities.
  • Your employer's responsibility is to facilitate the transition of care if the company is facing challenges.

A part of me says, "Don't overthink this. It's not reasonable that RNs can never leave an organization until there's a replacement."   I think it's doubtful you could be charged with patient abandonment, but I'm not an attorney.

Understandably, you may be worried about your liability and the well-being of your patients. It may feel like abandonment to you and your colleagues.

If you prioritize patient well-being, work towards a smooth transition, and document your actions, you will have less to worry about.

Here's a couple of things to consider:

Patient care is always a top priority. When multiple case managers consider leaving simultaneously, ensuring continuity of patient care can become a challenge.

  • Communication. In such a situation, it's essential to communicate openly with your management team about your concerns and explore potential solutions together.
  • You may want to seek guidance from your professional nursing association or legal counsel to understand your rights and responsibilities in this challenging situation. You can find an attorney at The American Association of Nurse Attorneys.
  • Documenting your attempts to ensure continuity of care for your patients will be crucial in demonstrating your commitment to their well-being. Keep records of your communications with management, efforts to find replacements, and any arrangements made for patient handover.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth