What are standards of care and why are they important?
Standards of care in nursing refer to the general guidelines for how nurses should act, what they should and should not do in their professional capacity. Standards of nursing care outline the professional expectations of nurses, guide nurses on proper protocol, provide consistency throughout the nursing profession, and give nurses an objective standard by which to evaluate other nurses. These standards are important because they recognize the trusted role that a nurse plays and provide a “baseline” for quality care.
Creating and maintaining these standards are one of the ways that Boards of Nursing regulate the practice of nursing in their states. In North Carolina, the NCBON issues licenses to those practicing in the state to protect the public from the unsafe, incompetent, and unethical practice of nursing, and the Nursing Practice Act established the standards of care that all licensed nurses must follow.
However, the standards of care established by the Board are not the only standards that nurses must follow. Additional standards may be based on written policies, procedures, protocols, professional studies, and expert opinions from nursing supervisors. Complaints regarding a failure to maintain standards of care usually allege that a nurse failed to follow a certain policy, procedure, protocol, or even doctors’ orders. Most complaints will state that a nurse was negligent if the patient suffers a loss as a result of a nurse’s actions or inactions.
What qualifies as failing to maintain standards and what could happen?
According to the NCBON, one of the most frequently reported practice allegations is the failure to maintain minimum standards of care. However, this is a relatively broad category, and it is important for nurses to understand what this can encompass. A failure to maintain minimum standards of care can be any of the following:
- Failure to follow proper “fall” or other safety protocols established by the health care institution
- Failure to administer medication in a timely and reasonable way
- Failure to monitor equipment
- Failure to warn patients about known harms or to protect patients from known dangers
- Failure to completely and accurately report the assessment or observations made regarding each patient in a timely manner
- Failure to monitor patient’s condition or to be alerted to changes in the patient’s condition
These are only a few examples, and there are many other actions or inactions that could qualify as failing to maintain a minimum standard of care. It is important for nurses to know what standards the Board expects them to maintain as well as what standards their health care facility expects them to uphold. If a nurse does fail to maintain the minimum standards of care, he or she may be found negligent if his or her actions caused the patient harm; the nurse could then face a negligence lawsuit, meaning the nurse has been accused of violating a standard of care. In addition to a civil suit, a nurse’s professional license might be impacted. If a nurse did not maintain this minimum standard of care, a complaint could be filed with the Board of Nursing, and the nurse’s professional license may be at risk.
To protect your license, make sure you understand the standards of care required by the Nursing Practice Act and your facility. If you have any questions about what your facility requires, make sure to speak with your nursing manager.
Nothing in this blog post is legal advice or establishes the attorney-client relationship. This is for informational purposes only. If you’d like to learn more about professional licensing issues in North Carolina check out our site at www.northstatelawfirm.com or our YouTube site here. 919-521-8810 is the direct line to North State Law.