Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Legal Responsibilities of Nurses

careertrend article image

Nurses have to abide by laws and regulations when practicing nursing. All of the regulations and legal aspects of nursing are taught and explained to nurses throughout nursing school. Not abiding by the code of ethics could cost the nurse his or her nursing license and result in a malpractice suit.

Nurse Practice Act

Every state has a Nurse Practice Act, which states all the guidelines and laws for the nurses who are licensed to practice in the state. The act includes the limitations and training specifications of each nurse. This means that each nurse has been trained in a specific area of nursing; therefore, the nurse must practice in that area only. If a nurse is not trained to administer medication or treatment to a patient, the nurse is not permitted to do so. The nurse must consult with a physician or other nursing authority when a situation arises that the nurse is not certified to handle. Any wrongdoing is a violation of this act, and the nurse may lose his or her nursing license, as well as having a suit filed against him or her or the health care agency or hospital.

Patient Advocate

A nurse has the legal responsibility to be the advocate for the patient in all health care instances, including emergencies. The nurse will be the liaison between the physician and the patient. The nurse has the legal duty to monitor the patient and watch for any abnormalities or complications that may occur. If any occur, the nurse must access a physician to provide immediate care for the patient.

Administering Medication

Any nurse who is certified to administer medication to a patient must do so accurately and timely. The nurse has the legal responsibility to interpret the charts and files of a patient and to understand what allergic reactions patients may or may not have to a certain medication. If a nurse does not administer the correct dosage or medication to a patient, the patient could suffer major health risks or even death. This is grounds for a malpractice suit against the nurse and health care facility.

Patient Neglect

The nurse will provide care for the patient he or she is monitoring at all times. If the patient needs assistance with any issues, such as hygiene, the nurse has the legal responsibility to assist the patient. If a nurse does not monitor and provide care to the patient, this can be considered patient neglect, which is unethical and illegal. The patient may try to move and use the restroom on his or her own and may be physically injured in the process. Some patients may harm themselves while under the influence of medication, which should not happen if the nurse is paying proper attention to his or her patient.

Consent Forms

Nurses have the legal responsibility to explain all treatment, medications and lab results to patients or authorized family members of patients. Before a patient may undergo surgery, he or she will need to sign a consent form. If the nurse is administering the treatment, such as anesthesia, it is the nurse’s legal obligation to explain the negatives and positives of the anesthesia. The patient or family member must then sign a consent form acknowledging that the patient understands the procedure. If this form is not signed and complications occur, the nurse may face legal consequences.


Taunda Edwards began writing in 1997 and received her bachelor's degree in secondary education from Miami University of Ohio in 2004. In 2005 she pursued her writing career on a full-time basis. Her first novel was published by T.A.D.D. Writes publications. She was a 2006 "Moviemaker Magazine" feature.

Photo Credits