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Civil and Criminal Law in Nursing – Health Care Law (Nursing)

by Christy Davidson

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    00:01 Welcome back everyone.

    00:02 Legal liablity is a vital consideration when beginning your career as professional nurse.

    00:08 In order to protect yourself, it's important to understand both civil and criminal law within context of healthcare.

    00:15 Legal liability is a civil obligation imposed by law on a wrongdoer requiring compensation of an injured party through monetary damages or some other legal remedy for the consequences of the wrongful act.

    00:28 There are two types of law we are going to discuss today.

    00:31 First - criminal law.

    00:33 Second - civil law.

    00:36 Criminal law is based on statutes.

    00:40 Statutes are laws created by the legislator and signed into law by the executive.

    00:45 The governor for state laws and the president of the United States for federal laws.

    00:50 Crimes are prohibitions against the behaviors that are so egregious that they offend society not just the individual victim.

    00:58 Punishment for crimes.

    01:00 This are fines and/or jail depending on the level of the offense and other factors.

    01:04 And they are delineated in the criminal statute.

    01:07 Nurses can be subject to criminal law for such behaviors as stealing or misusing narcotics, practicing without a license or intentionally causing physical harm to a person in their care.

    01:18 Now criminal offenses violate the public trust and safety and they carry serious consequences.

    01:25 Next we will discuss civil law or Tort.

    01:28 This is a personal wrong rather than a public wrong such as a crime.

    01:32 And it also includes monetary compensation.

    01:37 Two different types of civil law are simple or regular negligence, or professional negligence, otherwise known as malpractice.

    01:46 Negligence includes four elements.

    01:48 The first elements of negligence is found in the duty of care.

    01:52 This element emphasizes that one party has the legal obligation to act in a specific manner toward the other party.

    01:59 The second element is to prove that there is a breach of that duty of care because the individual or entity fails to fulfill their requirements or duties.

    02:08 As the third element of negligence, causation involves proving that the breach of duty of care is what results in the damages and injuries - actual causes in existence but if the duty of care had not been breached, tehre would not have been injuries.

    02:24 Harm.

    02:25 Harm is the fourth element of negligence.

    02:27 The plaintiff must have suffered injuries and damages that could be remedied by monetary settlement.

    02:32 So for example, money can compensate for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the loss of quality of life after an accident.

    02:42 That with negligence, the burden of proof is with the plaintiff or the one who issues the complaint.

    02:48 Negligence is a common standard for motor vehicle accidents - personal injury outside of the medical setting.

    02:56 Property damage.

    02:58 In healthcare, professional liability or malpractice is a standard by which a licensed professional nurse will be judged from a government.

    03:06 The nurse's licensure and scope of practice are derived from the state's practice act.

    03:10 All states hava a nurse practice act.

    03:13 Nurse practice acts define nursing practice, delineate the educational and other requirements for licensure and renewal, give notice to the public of the sort of behaviors that can be expected from a nurse, and identify what unacceptable practices might subject the nurse to disciplinary review or sanctions.

    03:32 There are safeguards in place for professionals.

    03:35 The first one is a statute of limitation.

    03:38 In general, this is a statutory time limit by which the plaintiff must file a lawsuit against a professional or they lose that opportunity forever.

    03:46 An affidavit of merit is a sworn document by a like-kind of professional such as a doctor for doctor defendant and a nurse for nurse defendant who reviews the injured patient's chart and based upon the reviewers education and experience, makes a statement about the case that has merit and should be permitted to go to trial.

    04:06 Laws are found in case books, as well as online and official reports in legal research services A reported case is one that can be found in an official reporter.

    04:17 Now the nurse can also serve as a witness.

    04:19 The first type of witness a nurse can serve as is a fact witness.

    04:23 A fact witness is someone who can testify from his or her own observations.

    04:28 For example, the nurse might have observed the patient fall in a hospital hallway but it was not their patient.

    04:34 A fact witness may not offer an opinion but they must testify only to personal knowledge what they see or what they hear.

    04:42 An expert witness is a person with specialized knowledge who aids the judge, and jury in the case of a jury trial to understand something that is beyond the scope of the average individual.

    04:52 Experts base their opinion and their testimony on their knowledge, education and experience.

    04:57 A professional liability case cannot be proven without an expert witness who can testify as to the actions or inactions of the professional defendant.

    05:07 So how do we avoid liability? First, know your applicable state nurse practice acts and rules.

    05:13 Be sure to practice within the scope of your professional practice.

    05:17 Know and keep current with all employer policies and procedures governing patient care.

    05:22 When in doubt about a procedure, treatment or medication, seek input from the appropriate person.

    05:27 For example, maybe a pharmacist, another physician or fellow nurse, Kepp your nursing practice current and up to date Know and adhere to standards of practice.

    05:37 Never undertake a procedure or treatment or use patient care equipment if you're not confident or proficient to do so.

    05:44 Follow the priniciples of good documentation whether in the form of paper or electronic documentation.

    05:49 Communicate any changes in the patient's condition with those who need to know the information such as physicians, nurse managers or other staff members Carefully and regularly monitor the patients for any changes whether positive or negative.

    06:04 And finally, remember to assess patients initially and in an ongoing basis thereafter utilizing input from licensed profeessional nurses and other nurse staff members.

    06:14 Remember, legal liability is ever present in the professional life of a nurse.

    06:20 So in thinking of everything we've covered today, I'd like for you to consider this question: What are the four elements of negligence? They are duty, breach, cause and harm.

    06:39 I hope you've enjoyed today's video on civil and crininal law.

    06:42 Thanks so much for watching.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Civil and Criminal Law in Nursing – Health Care Law (Nursing) by Christy Davidson is from the course Professionalism (Nursing).


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Legal liability
    2. Legal accountability
    3. Legal obligation
    4. Legal culpability
    1. Criminal law is a violation of statutes, and civil law is a personal violation.
    2. Civil law is a violation of statutes, and criminal law is a personal violation.
    3. Criminal law violations are illegal, and civil law violations are only morally wrong.
    4. Civil law violations are illegal, and criminal law violations are only morally wrong.
    1. This is a criminal violation punishable by fines and/or jail time.
    2. This is a civil violation punishable by fines.
    3. This is a criminal violation punishable by fines.
    4. This is a civil violation punishable by fines and/or jail time.
    1. This is a civil violation punishable by fines.
    2. This is a criminal violation punishable by fines and/or jail time.
    3. This is a criminal violation punishable by fines.
    4. This is a civil violation punishable by fines and/or jail time.
    1. Malpractice
    2. Negligence
    3. Transgression
    4. Disregard
    1. Practice within the state's nurse practice act and refer to the available resources for guidance.
    2. Maintain practice the way that it has always been completed.
    3. Ask team members for guidance on procedures that are not common.
    4. Be personable and friendly with clients regardless of the quality of care being delivered.

    Author of lecture Civil and Criminal Law in Nursing – Health Care Law (Nursing)

     Christy Davidson

    Christy Davidson


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