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Is the Educator culpable if the student does something wrong?

Nurse Beth   (844 Views | 3 Replies)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Writer Innovator Expert Nurse

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

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Dear Nurse Beth,

What responsibility does the clinical nurse educator have to their student? If the student does something wrong, is the educator culpable for it if they observed it and did nothing?

Dear Wondering,

I'm an educator in the hospital setting, and if I or my colleagues observe a nurse doing something wrong, we have a responsibility to do something.

Let's say the nurse inserted a nasogastric tube and was about to administer medications through it, but had not checked placement.  Or the nurse was leaving the room with the bed in high position. Both of these scenarios involve patient safety. The educator would immediately stop the nurse from administering medications, and lower the bed. The primary responsibility is patient safety. I would do these things as naturally as possible, with the goal being neither to shame the nurse nor alarm the patient. Then I would take the nurse aside privately and coach him/her.

Let's say it's not an immediate patient safety issue. If a nurse hung a secondary addit, such as an antibiotic, and left the roller ball clamped (common rookie mistake), I would just watch and say nothing. Within a short amount of time, I would encourage him/her to go in the room and check on their antibiotic. At this point they will see their mistake and correct it. The rationale is self-discovery, and active vs passive learning. Very effective. 

If you as a bystander were observing the antibiotic scenario, you might think I was doing nothing. Likewise, if I decided to speak to a nurse in private, you may think I had done nothing, when in fact, I had.

Without knowing the details, I can't really answer your question about culpability. At a high level, though, yes. Students do not have a license, so the educator would have ultimate responsibility. However, newly licensed nurses do practice under their own license. Culpable as in a lawsuit? Perhaps. Culpable to the BON? Depends. To the organization? Most likely.

Best wishes, my friend

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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NICU Guy has 5 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in NICU.

1 Follower; 3,571 Posts; 32,587 Profile Views

I think the OP was referring to a Clinical Instructor. Is the Clinical Instructor responsible for something a student does wrong during a clinical?

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Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

18 Followers; 103 Articles; 2,059 Posts; 234,715 Profile Views

5 hours ago, NICU Guy said:

I think the OP was referring to a Clinical Instructor. Is the Clinical Instructor responsible for something a student does wrong during a clinical?

My answer would be the same, as in more details are needed. Culpable in what way for what mistake?

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kbrn2002 has 25 years experience as a ADN, RN and specializes in Geriatrics.

3,003 Posts; 29,381 Profile Views

Interesting question.  Without knowing any details it's hard to frame an answer.  A clinical practice mistake made while under the supervision of the instructor  is an entirely different scenario than some other unnamed hypothetical doing something wrong might be. That's just too broad a statement to address without knowing what that something wrong is. 

For instance a situation of a nursing student doing something wrong while being observed by the supervising clinical instructor would result in correction though if the instructor is a good one the student's cohort wouldn't know anything about that corrective action.  Depending on the mistake made it might not even be called to the students attention until the instructor pulls that student aside to discuss it in private so again the student's cohort wouldn't be privy to any correction.   I would imagine if this hypothetical student were about to do something wrong that could impact patient safety that action would be stopped before any damage could be done but again any corrective action should not be taken in front of the students cohort or the patient.  

But if a student nurse does something wrong away from the direct supervision of the clinical instructor the situation changes.  I am honestly not sure if the instructor has any culpability when a student steps over the line of what they are allowed to do without direct supervision but I wouldn't think the instructor should have any blame placed on them in that case.   The consequences for that student would depend on the situation and the school's disciplinary process which again that student's cohort would have no knowledge of, nor should they. 

So if your question is just fishing for information on what kind of punishment a nursing student should face when they do something wrong you're fishing in the wrong pond as it's really nobodies business outside of the affected parties.  If your question is fishing for information on the clinical instructor's role again you are fishing in the wrong pond as you wouldn't be privy to any corrective action taken by the instructor toward the student or even any corrective action toward an instructor by the school if it came to that. 

Edited by kbrn2002

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