Should nurses be held responsible for their mistakes

Nurses General Nursing


I believe it was last year, but it could have been year before, nurses at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita KS successfully defended themselves against a law suit using understaffing as a defense. I gather they were able to prove that they had asked for help and documented their concerns with staffing.

That's a big reason that nurses have left the hospitals. It's not new either. The situation is just worse. If you have a license, you are responsible. If you plead negligence as a result of low staffing, then you will probably be questioned as to why you agreed to work like that. So the best idea is to refuse and document and if you can't refuse, document under protest.

We are trying to get away from the blame and shame that goes on in nursing when we make mistakes. More peer review, looking at systems, and learning from our mistakes is needed. Nursing have been made to feel that they are bad nurses if they make mistakes, which of course we all know that some of the best nurses make mistakes. JCAHO is focusing on systems and actually frowns on hospitals that blame individual nurses and use harsh discipline as a way to deal with the issue.

Unless gross negligence with nurses pulling 2-3 extra shifts an week and being responsible for more it has shown that more mistakes are being made sometimes costing nurses their license suspended or lawsuits being directly at the nurses. why is the nurse taking all the responsibility that they are?and what (we know to document but besides that)what does the board think we should do to protect ourselves?

Specializes in LDRP; Education.

In theory, we are supposed to "refuse" unsafe assignments.

Our state nursing board will protect us - again, in theory.

Originally posted by kjmta57:

Unless gross negligence with nurses pulling 2-3 extra shifts an week and being responsible for more it has shown that more mistakes are being made sometimes costing nurses their license suspended or lawsuits being directly at the nurses. why is the nurse taking all the responsibility that they are?and what (we know to document but besides that)what does the board think we should do to protect ourselves?

Hi kjmta57. Yes, nurses should be and are held liable for our mistakes. Individual liability is one of the things that distinguishes professional workers from blue collar workers. This is why companies are constantly advertising to us through journals and mail.

I agree with SuzyK. In reality, we trench nurses need to stand up for ourselves and refuse unsafe assignments. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that our nurse practice acts adequately address nursing shortages.

This why we need legislature in this area because our own nurse practice acts do not address nurse-patient ratios and what is appropriate. I agree with all of the above.


There have been a number of cases over the years of nurses being held criminally accountable for errors. Here is the latest one from Texas below this message.

Indeed, as noted above by our colleagues, nurses are individually accountable for their mistakes as professionals. If the error results from another base root problem [AKA short staffing = inability to assess, intervene, monitor, document, etc.= patient harm] then that situation must be recognized by the "reasonable and prudent" RN and the chain of command involved [notifiyng the supervisor, etc] and documented as such,BEFORE the harm occurs in order for there to be any protection.

If the RN accepts an assignment they know is unsafe, and goes on to take it without protest, that mere action of accepting it can be construed as negligent.

Some professional nursing unions have special forms to document protests to insulate a nurses license under such conditions.

A generic assignment despite objection form can be found at The Florence Project, Inc. main web page at

Please review the disclaimer, as filling out such written documentation without the protection of a professional union may result in retaliation.

My stance is- a license is a terrible thing to waste, and while you can always get another job, you cannot get another license.




>Nurse indicted in boot camp death


>FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - A Tarrant County grand jury has indicted a

>nurse who provided medical treatment for a Mansfield boot camp

>probationer until two days before he died of pneumonia.


>Knyvett Jane Reyes was accused Thursday of manslaughter and

>negligent homicide in connection with the death earlier this year of

>Bryan Alexander.


>An inquest into the death of Alexander, 19, concluded that the

>Arlington man died Jan. 9 of bacterial pneumonia caused by a staph



>The Texas Rangers have been investigating treatment of inmates at

>the privately operated prison, including the death of Alexander. He

>was serving a sentence at the camp for a drunken driving conviction.


>Rick Alexander has claimed that his son, who complained of a sore

>throat, received inadequate medical care. The younger Alexander died

>later at John Peter Smith Hospital.


>Dr. Nizam Peerwani, Tarrant County's chief medical examiner, said

>medical staff at the boot camp did not perform a common bacterial

>test used to determine the nature of a sore throat. He said doctors

>and hospitals routinely swab a sore throat and grow a culture to

>identify the bacteria present.


>The legal definition of manslaughter includes recklessly causing the

>death of another person.


>Jack Strickland, Reyes' attorney, criticized the indictment against

>his client.


>``If there's any act of recklessness in this case, it's by the

>Tarrant County grand jury,'' he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in

>Friday's editions. ``She's devastated by this and has been

>heartbroken by the death of this young man.''


>The boot camp and workers at the facility have had other legal

>problems. In March, a judge awarded damages of $2.8 million in a

>sexual harassment lawsuit against the boot camp's private managers.


>In another incident at the boot camp, a Fort Worth area probationer

>serving four months in a drug rehabilitation program reported that

>he received inadequate treatment. The 19-year-old Mansfield man's

>pulse had stopped and he had to be resuscitated.


>AP-WS-05-04-01 0733EDT



Nurses should start taking responsibility for their practice. If I come on a shift and there aren't enough nurses for the number of patients in, I will not take report until they get someone down there. I do not work 70 hours a week either, because I know my limits. I can't stand nurses whining about making errors when they take an insane number of patients and work 12 hours a day 7 days a week. Get some balls and refuse to work like this! It's not like you can't find a job elsewhere. These nurses are not helping anyone by taking on more patients than they can care for.

What should I do? I show up at the long term care home where I work. There are 41 residents on my floor. We require 4 to 5 CNA's and one nurse to work our floor. This is an Alzheimer's floor, many confused, wandering residents. The majority need to be spoon fed. I show up at 6:45 AM, get report, and by 7:15 AM have just one CNA. We have no idea where the other CNA's are. Sometimes they show up, sometimes they don't. I have called the other two floors, "Do you have any extra CNA's?" One floor has an extra and so they send this "very reluctant" CNA to my floor. Great. Now we have me the nurse, one cna and one kidnapped cna. We really need two more cna's, I am trying to meet the needs of the residents, cleaning up shi..., changing diapers, putting on socks and shoes, etc. Of course, we are late feeding, spoon feeding most of the residents. Have any of you ever had a baby that clamped their mouth shut. Did you say, "Too bad, no breakfast for you today." No, you would try to keep enticing them to eat. Too bad for the elderly, no one has time to pamper or entice them to eat. I had no time to entice anyone to eat, I had to go stop the blood flow from Mary's head when she fell. Plus, keep Jack from grabbing George's food and trying to stab him with his fork. I love working the elderly, but it has become way too dangerous.

Document! Document! Document!

And if whatever you enter is blatently for the benefit of the patient . . .

There shall be no fear of litigation.


Specializes in ER.

Maybe there are nurses out there that have never made a purely stupid mistake in spite of checking, and care. But I know that I could make any mistake any shift, no matter how obvious the error, and when I hear about patients dying from med or treatment errors I just think, thank God I have been lucky so far.

If we were held criminally liable for errors I would have to leave the profession. Although I have not been responsible (yet) for a mistake that cost a patient their life or health I could not work under the added pressure of possibly not only losing my license, but also my freedom.

I am also willing to bet that if we each got an extra nurse on each shift that there would be a measurable decline in errors, no matter what your present staffing is. So the next time you hear a politician talk about medical errors being a complicated problem you can assure him/her that there is a very quick way to make a huge impact. the question being- do they have the balls to get in there and do it. :o

+ Add a Comment