Nurse practitioners can be held accountable for damaging errors

When a pregnant woman goes to the doctor in Houston, she may or may not be seen by an actual doctor. In many cases, patients may be seen by nurse practitioners instead of licensed physicians. In other cases, patients may first spend time with a nurse practitioner, or NP, and then may also be seen by a doctor for a shorter period of time. If these types of medical personnel make serious or life-threatening mistakes, can they be held accountable?

In 2003, there were about 111,000 NPs working in the U.S. Ten years later, that figure rose to roughly 155,000. When this fact is combined with a potential doctor shortage as well as the increase in patient load brought forth by the Affordable Care Act, the reliance on NPs brings up the issue of nursing negligence. Laws regarding what nurse practitioners can and cannot do vary from state to state; as a result, holding a negligent nurse practitioner accountable can be a highly complex task.

In general, licensed healthcare professionals, including NPs, can be sued if they departed from the standards of patient care for their profession, and if that departure harmed the patient. Nowadays NPs can serve a variety of roles in the healthcare setting, from prescribing medications to diagnosing conditions and treating patients. With so many responsibilities, there is an attendant possibility that they may err and accidentally harm a patient. Examples include failure to properly monitor a high-risk pregnancy, failure to notify doctors of a change in the patient's condition or failure to give proper dosage of medications.

While relatively rare compared to physicians, some NPs are listed as primary defendants in malpractice suits. The issue of liability with regard to NPs, though, can be quite complicated. Some NPs are listed under their supervising physicians' malpractice insurance, while others purchase their own. Moreover, some medical practices will have written protocols regarding clinical care, while others may not. Answering the question of who is responsible for a medical error may merit the assistance of an experienced malpractice attorney.

Categories: Nursing Negligence