Working conditions for nurses have never been worse in modern times. Unprecedented safety issues have added to the stress of staff shortages and burnout. Never mind daily exposure to COVID and other viruses, nurses are four times more likely to be victims of assault on the job than in any other private workplace environment.
Mistakes are bound to happen in working conditions like this and mistakes in healthcare have the potential for high-stakes ramifications, both for the patient and the nurse’s career. Here are a few ways nurses can protect their licenses.
Meticulous charting habits
The best way to protect yourself from liability is to write down everything done and said with the patient. To paraphrase a common healthcare proverb, if it isn’t charted, it didn’t happen.
Charting doesn’t just mean documenting the administration of meds and checking vitals. This is where the nurse can log that orders were satisfied, flag mistakes, express concerns, and advocate for an unhappy or worsening patient. This is the physical proof that you did everything required and went beyond standard attentiveness when the situation called for it.
Exhaustive medication verification
Healthcare centers should have robust processes to ensure patients receive the correct medication. For some drugs, like narcotics, double-checks are mandatory before administration.
Beyond that, there are less strict but still essential guidelines to prevent medication mix-ups.
- Using scanners to verify that the proper medication is given to the right patient.
- Manually cross-checking the patient’s name and birthday.
- Taking a moment to read the medication label, no matter how familiar it is to you, to ensure that warnings are heeded and possible errors are caught.
- Talking to the patient themselves, explaining what you are administering and why, and asking if they have questions or concerns.
- And finally, updating the administration record in the patient’s chart that, again, should be comprehensive in detail.
Retain personal liability and/or malpractice insurance
Consider obtaining additional insurance in case you are personally sued.
Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion
If you’re unsure about care instructions, take a moment to ask the charge nurse or another decision-maker for confirmation that the treatment in question is correct.
Admittedly, these extra steps may sound like adding more time and effort to an already unfeasible workload. If that’s the case, it’s time to raise the issue with senior management, preferably in writing. Like the patient’s chart, thoroughly documenting problems and concerns may be the key to protecting your license in the event of a lawsuit.