The Different Elements of Nurse Practitioner Negligence

Malpractice claims are severe for nurse practitioners and can cause them to lose their nursing licenses and face financial ruin. Negligence is a common cause of a malpractice claim, so we’ll explain the different elements a claim needs to prove negligence against a nurse practitioner. Learn more about negligence to protect yourself from nurse practitioner malpractice suits.

Legal Negligence, Defined

Negligence, in a legal setting, is a term that generally describes conduct deviating from the standard of care expected from a professional such as a nurse practitioner (NP). While negligence and malpractice are similar and sometimes used interchangeably, they’re different legal terms.

Medical malpractice is the failure of a professional, like a nurse practitioner, to act with the prevailing professional standards. For example, a physician may misdiagnose a patient, or a surgeon could make an operating mistake. On the other hand, professional medical negligence against an NP must contain certain elements: duty to the patient, breach of duty, damages, and causation.

Elements of Negligence for Nurse Practitioners:

Duty to the Patient

If you’re a nurse practitioner and a malpractice case is brought against you, there’s a process the plaintiff has to follow. First, they have to prove the NP owed a legal duty to the patient. For example, an NP has a duty to monitor the patient and sometimes administer medication and other small but crucial tasks in a patient’s treatment plan.

An NP may also be responsible for monitoring a patient and alerting physicians and doctors should they become unstable in a reasonable amount of time. Before a malpractice negligence case can proceed, the plaintiff must first establish that there is a duty owed to the patient.

Breach of Duty to the Patient

Breach of duty is a common CRNA malpractice claim. Once the duty of the NP to the patient is covered, the litigant must prove that the NP breached that duty. These elements of negligence for nurse practitioners may be different, but they often go together as a plaintiff typically establishes the duty owed to the patient and the breach of that duty at the same time.

For a negligence case, the breach of duty may be that the NP failed to administer the proper medication to the patient or didn’t adequately monitor the patient and alert doctors when they became unstable.

Damages & Causation

Lastly, a negligence case against an NP must also prove that there are damages of pain and suffering to the patient and that the breach of duty outlined prior caused these damages. A court may find a breach of duty, but the damages and causes of those damages could be separate.

It’s also possible for a court to find a breach of duty but not any damage caused by the breach, which would mean a victory for the defendant. A plaintiff must prove a direct line from the NP’s breach of duty to the patient’s pain and suffering.

Negligence and malpractice cases are why professional liability insurance for nurse practitioners is essential. CRNAs face unique challenges in the field, and it’s smart to protect yourself. If you need nurse practitioner malpractice insurance or have questions about cost or your professional liability, contact the experts at Baxter & Associates.