Legal Liability....

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Theer are some horror stories surrounding my friends in nursing school about professional liability R/T being a nursing student and offering people medical advice. There are several "lawsuits" hovering around a few of my fellow students! Does this have any prevalence where you all go to school? We have actually had metteings about what we are and aren't allowed to say to people and pretty much all we are allowed to say and not get in trouble for it "go see a doctor". I'm sure you all know what it's like to have someone come up to you and say 'Hey i have a cough, youre going to school to be a nurse, what do you think is wrong with me?' and they expect you to know everything because youre in school! I actually had a co-worker ask me why her daughter was born with a congenital heart disorder. I said I DONT KNOW! She was like well what do they teach you in nursing school. HELLO! I'm getting scared to say anything to anyone anymore. And I hate it even more when people ask those stupid questions, as we all know coughing could be a symptom of numerous things...Oh Dear!......XOXOXO

Maggie in NC

1 Article; 392 Posts

I actually had a co-worker ask me why her daughter was born with a congenital heart disorder. I said I DONT KNOW! She was like well what do they teach you in nursing school.

She needs a dictionary to look up the word CONGENITAL :rotfl:

Our society is so "sue" happy, it's really pathetic. There is no more "help your neighbor"-it's more like "good fences make good neighbors".

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

108 Articles; 9,984 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

Even we RNs are very limited as to the type of advice we can stock answer to medical questions from friends and relatives is always, "I think you should have that checked out by your doctor". And if they persist, I'll say, "I'm not a doctor, so I can't diagnose your problem, but here are some things you may want to ask your physician when you see him/her". :)

It's different if they ask you a nursing-related question, of course; people often want to know how you as a nurse would handle something, and that's when you can say "Here's what I'd do (or have done in the past) in this situation". Just remember: you can't "diagnose" an illness for somebody, or recommend a treatment.......this could put you in danger of being charged with practicing medicine without a license!

Just my two cents' worth. :)


358 Posts

From day one of nursing school, people were phoning and asking for help with their health problems or their neighbour's cousin in Timbuktu's health problems. In nursing school, it was made very clear that even in an emergency situation when offering help, we were NOT to identify ourselves as "student nurses" (because people hear the "nurse" but not the "student") - we were taught to say, "I have been trained in first aid".

As an RN now, any time I offer help or advice, I am accountable as an RN not as a friend. I tell people to call the health hotline or see their doc or NP. The ONLY clarifier is that I am not governed by CNO (Ontario's BON) in the case of a family member. Even with family members, I do NOT give advice over a telephone. In person, I do my assessment and if I am not ABSOLUTELY certain that it does not require immediate medical attention, I call the free health hotline (we have this available in Ontario - there are RN's on the hotline who follow their manual - 99.9% of the time they tell you to go to ER and fax the ER with the information you have provided so that the ER is ready for you) or tell them to go to the OR.

I'm not sure about anywhere else, but in Ontario, anytime a nurse lends assistance to anyone, they must remain with that person until relieved by ambulance personnel on the scene or they have delivered the person into the hands of an RN or MD in the ER.

No, don't give people advice. I know of one person who told his neighbour that his meds made him feel funny. The advice given was "quit taking them". He had a massive CVA and is now, despite rehabilitation, confined to a wheelchair.

Even if someone asks you something that SEEMS relatively simple, like advice for nutrition, YOU don't know their history. Someone on coumadin, for instance, needs to maintain certain types and quantities of foods as they can effect the coumadin level. Unless it is your child, husband, mother, etc... you CANNOT treat or advise them without opening yourself up to a lawsuit.

What I do tell EVERYONE is that they need to write down their signs & symptoms, things that occurred around the time of the onset of the S&S (like a trip to the dentist, a trip out of town, etc.), what makes it better or worse, any history of similar S&S in their family, meds they are currently taking (including herbs or OTC preparations), and to add questions to their list as they think of them. This list should be prepared before the appointment that I tell them to make with their doc.

Specializes in Telemetry, Oncology, Progressive Care.

We are in school to learn how to be nurses and not dx someone's health condition. The way a nurse is taught is way different than the way a dr is taught. Just like when you are working the nurse's scope of practice is way different than a doctors. That's what I would tell them. I guess I'm lucky that so far people aren't asking me any questions yet. I'm the one grilling them about all their meds and ailments so I can learn from them.


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