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Is it dangerous for RNs/nursing students to give advice to people about their health

Nurses   (6,427 Views 53 Comments)
by lovehospital lovehospital (Member)

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Ok so is it out of the scope of an RN,nursing students to give advice to people about their health issues.Recently I detected a high blood pressure in one of my friends like 140/90,his father has hypertension so I guess the genetics play the role,also he has another risk factor since he is a male.I advised him to stop eating salty foods (he works many hours and eats convienience food like pizza,hamburgers,pork),low-fat meats (chicken breast and rice),and also to continue exercise.I'm not playing doctor,I"m just trying to put the theory into practice .Am I breaking law or am practicing outside the scope,what do you think.This is the first time I gave health advise,it felt definitely good and he was very thankful and took my advise to his heart I think,but then again I want to know if this is according to law?

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RochesterRN-BSN has 6 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Psych, ER, Resp/Med, LTC, Education.

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I would think that would fall under the realm of patient teaching/ wellness promotion. Its not like you diagnosed him with HTN. You could also tell him to follow up with his PCP if it continues to stay high....let the doc handle it then as to if it was a one time thing, if he needs meds, that kind of thing....I would think you were fine.

Edited by RochesterRN-BSN
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llg has 40 years experience as a PhD, RN and specializes in Nursing Professional Development.

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Yes, it can be dangerous. You have to be very careful about that sort of thing. If you present yourself as being an "expert" or as being a "professional" in doing that sort of teaching, you take responsibility for the quality of care that you delivered and may be held legally and financially responsible for the service you provide.

For example ... in the situation you provided above. It's fine if you share a little of what you know with your friends in a general way and remind them of the importance of eating right, getting regular exercise, etc. However, you neglected to tell your friend the most important piece of advice he needs. If he mistakenly thinks that you have "treated" his hypertension and that is all he has to do to stay healthy, that's a problem.

What did you miss? You did not encourage him to see his physician and get a proper work-up for his hypertension. He needs a proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment plan. If he neglects to get that because he thinks your advice is all he needs, he could get into serious health problems because of that failure. You are not qualified to diagnose and treat hypertension. Therefore, you should not be doing it beyond the type of casual conversation common among friends about healthy lifestyles. And when you have those conversations about lifestyles, you should always be sure to advise your friends to seek appropriate medical care. Never imply or suggest that your advice replaces appropriate professional care.

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flightnurse2b is a LPN and specializes in EMS, ER, GI, PCU/Telemetry.

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i agree with llg.

giving wellness tips (as you did) including low fat diet and exercise are good advice but since you have already noted yourself that he has a family history of HTN, the best advice would have been to say "you need to make an appointment with your PCP to discuss your blood pressure". he may need to begin lifestyle mods, but diet and exercise alone will not cure him. he needs to be monitored by a physician or an advanced practice nurse.

you can give anyone tips on how to be healthy.. but in any case, the best advice about health a nurse can give about a medical condition is go to the doctor. you don't want your friend to have a stroke and say "well lovehospital told me i would be ok if i just ate more chicken and exercised!".. because then you'd be in deep doodoo.

you cannot legally give anyone medical advice unless you are an ARNP or a MD/DO, hence why they close medical advice threads in 2 seconds on here.

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never, never, never, never, never and never give a diagnosis. always, always, always, and always advise people to follow up with their doctor.

you are ok, i guess, to remind people about salt intake. however, when you tell them to exercise, suppose they do and then have a heart attack?

they'll remember that you told them to do it and, next thing you know, they'll sue the pants right off of you.

you must make it 1000 percent clear that you are not allowed to diagnose or offer advice. you must state that to them, just like that. you must tell them to see their doctor. i know it kind of stinks but you want to keep your house, right?

this includes family and your dearest, life-long friends.

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Just be careful. Malpractice insurance doesn't cover you when you're not at work (or for you, not at clinical) and if you give "professional advice" and it turns out to be incorrect for whatever reason... and they claim they were harmed, it could come back to bite you. It could also hurt your relationship. A friend may ask you to make a clinical judgment without giving you the whole story.

Even when my mom calls me I tell her "I cannot dx you over the phone, if you are worried enough about this to call me, make an appt. with your PCP." It makes me uncomfortable to start asking assessment-type questions of friends. Usually it's more than either of us want to know (think STD's). It's not that I don't have the knowledge, it's just wiser not to cross the nurse/patient relationship with a friendship.

I remember in nursing school getting excited and looking things up to help a friend. Now I realize how little I knew and would not do that now. You are learning how to do health teaching and becoming confident in your skills. That's great! Just make sure you're not presenting yourself as "the expert" or the authority on how to manage HTN. He needs to follow up with a PCP who can get a full hx and follow him over time.

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RedCell specializes in CRNA.

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Telling someone how to eat healthier and make better meal choices is not as dangerous as the anemic underweight looking guy on TV telling us to use his dual action colon cleanse product.

One random blood pressure on a dude is worthless anyways. It is something that is tracked over time. Besides, some people have a tendancy to have increased cardiac output/SVR in the presence of others.

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truern specializes in Telemetry & Obs.

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If it's like some of the "advice" students give on this website, then yes it's dangerous.

A little bit of knowledge does not an expert make...nor a diagnostician.

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~Mi Vida Loca~RN has 6 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in Emergency Dept. Trauma. Pediatrics.

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I have noticed since even doing my prereqs for nursing *start NS in August* all my friends now come to me for advice on everything. I mean no joke, just last week a friend called me asking me the signs of a MI because she thought she might be having one. It can be frustrating but I try to be careful on anything I say. I do notice I try to educate more, an example, I am an ex smoker, I quite for 4 years and started again last March when my husband started again. Quit again in Jan. Well always knew the whole smoking is bad for you, but taking Pathophysiology this semester has shed a whole new light on to things. So without being pushy I try to share that knowledge with my friends. Especially the ones I know really waver on wanting to quit.

Another one our Professor encouraged is taking ASA when traveling long distances as long as you don't have any blood conditions or shouldn't take asprin. So I had a friend flying to Germany and I told her to call her Doc and make sure she doesn't have any conditions to prevent her from taking Asprin and to take some and move often during her flight.

Whenever anyone calls me though I always stress to them if they are truly concerned they need to see their Doctor. I can share my knowledge on the education part like I would on any subject but I don't want my friends to mistake me going to nursing school = I am now as good as a Doctor.

I did not want to pursue being a Doctor because I did not want all that on my shoulders, I could never do what a Doctor does.

Edited by ~Mi Vida Loca~RN

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637 Posts; 6,332 Profile Views

Telling someone how to eat healthier and make better meal choices is not as dangerous as the anemic underweight looking guy on TV telling us to use his dual action colon cleanse product.

One random blood pressure on a dude is worthless anyways. It is something that is tracked over time. Besides, some people have a tendancy to have increased cardiac output/SVR in the presence of others.

I agree with this.

Outside healthcare people give, take or trade health tips all the time. I guess it's different when you give advice while wearing a health care professional cap (imaginary or otherwise) though.

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654 Posts; 5,690 Profile Views

Telling someone how to eat healthier and make better meal choices is not as dangerous as the anemic underweight looking guy on TV telling us to use his dual action colon cleanse product.

One random blood pressure on a dude is worthless anyways. It is something that is tracked over time. Besides, some people have a tendancy to have increased cardiac output/SVR in the presence of others.

What are you talking about? If you want to be informative,check your sources,actually it diagnosed by two random blood pressure checks not over time:banghead: And I dont think it worthless to check someone blood pressure,advices like your are definitely worthless though.

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~Mi Vida Loca~RN has 6 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in Emergency Dept. Trauma. Pediatrics.

5,259 Posts; 31,064 Profile Views

Telling someone how to eat healthier and make better meal choices is not as dangerous as the anemic underweight looking guy on TV telling us to use his dual action colon cleanse product.

One random blood pressure on a dude is worthless anyways. It is something that is tracked over time. Besides, some people have a tendancy to have increased cardiac output/SVR in the presence of others.

The closest person to adult size I have here in my house right now is my almost 13 yr old son. I decided over the summer before I started NS I wanted to try to practice and learn a few skills (taking BP, Dosage and Calculations and so on) when I first decided I wanted to be a nurse I got a tad excited and ordered up Stethoscopes and BP kit and stuff. LOL so anyway I figured i would practice on my son since my husband is out of town and his BP was pretty dang high, he had a physical in August for Football and was fine. I chalked it up to me needing a lot more practice :p

I am going to spend a few weeks this summer in San Diego and have my mom who is a Cert. Medical Assitant show me and help me practice more.

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