Substandard wound care can create legal risks for nurses

Providing the best possible care for patients is the goal of every dedicated clinician.

Whether you’re an experienced or brand-new wound care nurse, are certified in wound care or not, work in acute care, long-term care or the ambulatory environment — you have an ethical and legal obligation to provide optimum care, along with personal pride in your practice.

Providing substandard wound care cannot only harm patients, it can result in a patient or family members taking legal action against you and other clinicians involved in the patient’s care plan. Another concern for clinicians is a new legal wrinkle some face when treating elderly patients.

Wound care also is an area of healthcare seeing a large increase in malpractice cases, Balestra said. Some of the high-risk areas usually examined in wound care-related cases include:

  • Treatment and care: Patient did not receive the appropriate treatment or care
  • Communication failures: Clinician to patient and family, or clinician to clinician
  • Medication administration: Failures in administering medication
  • Informed consent: Not obtained, and/or not charted
  • Documentation: Errors and omissions

Know your evidence-based treatments

Click here to download and read our wound care legal risks info graphic.

One way to expand your clinical knowledge and skill, according to Brent, is to become certified in wound care.

“Even if certified, it’s extremely important to keep up with the latest standard of practice by reading journals, taking relevant continuing education courses, and recertifying when required,” she said. “Once certified, you will be held to a higher standard of care. However, don’t be afraid to get certified, as it’s a badge of honor and shows a commitment to providing exemplary care.”

All wound care nurses, according to Balestra, should maintain their own professional malpractice insurance.

“Sometimes employers will want to settle a case you’re involved in to save themselves time and money – even if you did nothing wrong,” she said. “However, you may not want to settle. When you carry your own insurance, you can obtain your own attorney to represent you.”


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