Top 5 Medical Law Topics for Nurses

boy getting a vaccine
Photo by CDC on


In the medical field, nurses are often at risk of being sued by patients because of a mistake they’ve made. In fact, nurses are twice as likely to be sued than doctors. Say’s Dr. Francene Gayle, While it’s important for nurses to know their rights in the event they’re ever sued, it’s also important that they understand some basic legal concepts that apply to all medical professionals: negligence, informed consent, conflict resolution and confidentiality.

1. Negligence

Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care.

In the medical field, negligence can occur when a nurse fails to take action that would have prevented a patient from being harmed. For example, if you are caring for a patient who needs oxygen but you don’t provide it because you forgot about their need or didn’t check the chart correctly before coming on shift, this would be considered negligence in your care of that person.

2. Informed consent

Informed consent is a process that requires the patient to be informed of the risks and benefits of treatment. The patient must understand the information given to him or her, and he or she must be able to make an informed decision based on this knowledge. The nurse should make sure that the patient understands what is being discussed, when appropriate (i.e., if there are any questions). This can occur in person or via telephone call; however, it is best if all communication related to informed consent takes place in person so that there is no question about whether or not both parties are communicating effectively with each other

3. Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a legal obligation and applies to all patient information, including the medical staff. The law requires that you keep your patients’ medical records confidential, unless they give you permission otherwise or if it’s required by law (for example, if the patient makes a specific request).

If someone asks you to break confidentiality, ask them why they need this information and if there is any way that it could be obtained in another way. If so, suggest an alternative method; don’t just give out private information without good reason or cause!

4. Malpractice

Malpractice is a legal term for negligence on behalf of a medical professional. It’s important to note that not all negligence is malpractice; however, it can become malpractice if it results in injury or death of the patient.

Malpractice claims are typically brought about by patients who have suffered harm as a result of their healthcare provider’s actions or inaction during treatment or diagnosis. The claims against these parties may include:

  • Negligence (failure to exercise reasonable care)
  • Breach of contract/breach of warranty – An implied promise made by your doctor when they accept payment from you for services rendered such as “I will provide competent treatment.”

5. Breach of duty

You have a duty to your patient, the hospital and your colleagues. You are also required to act in accordance with the law and maintain professional standards of conduct.

Nurses have an ethical obligation to ensure that they do not breach any laws or regulations that may apply in their jurisdiction(s). If you fail to uphold this standard of care, then it could result in disciplinary action being taken against you by the Nursing Board or other regulatory body within your state or country.


We hope that you now have a better understanding of the five most important topics in medical law. As a nurse, it is essential that you know these topics well and can apply them to your practice. If you need some help or have questions about anything we covered here today, feel free to reach out!

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest