The Differences Between Malpractice & Negligence in Nursing

It takes the work of an experienced lawyer to parcel out the differences between malpractice and negligence in nursing. In this article, we’ll go over the basic differentiators. Using this information, the victims of poor medical care can better understand their options.

Duty of Care

Just because a patient suffers a bad outcome doesn’t necessarily mean that medical malpractice or negligence in nursing occurred. Nurses can only do so much. Despite their best efforts, patients die or never recover from life-altering injuries. However, nurses do owe a duty of care to their patients. If they breach that duty, patients or their families can sue.

You can base a duty of care on what a rational person would do under the same circumstances. In both malpractice and negligence cases, the plaintiff must prove that the nurse did not live up to the standards of a rational nurse. Proving what a rational nurse would do and how the nurse in the case failed to do that can be difficult. These cases require the knowledge of experienced attorneys.

Intent To Harm

One of the major differences between malpractice and negligence in nursing is the matter of intent. Although a duty of care is a vital component of malpractice and negligence cases in nursing, an attorney only needs to prove “intent” in malpractice cases. This means that attorneys, or the plaintiff in malpractice cases, must prove that the nurse knew they should have done something to treat the patient but failed to do so. They also must have known that their failure could cause harm but did it regardless.

In negligence cases, attorneys do not prove intent. In negligence cases for nurses, the attorneys must prove that they made a “mistake” when treating the patient and that the mistake resulted in harm. For example, if a nurse leaves a surgical sponge inside a surgical wound, that would be a negligent action.

Luckily for many nurses, certified registered nurse anesthetics (CRNAs) can protect themselves with CRNA malpractice insurance.