25 Legal Tools No Nurse Should Be Without

Protect your nursing practice with these legal tips from our experts.


If you are a practicing nurse, you have countless decisions to make every single day. Some of your decisions can have a lasting impact on your patient, and some can have a lasting impact on you and your career. You must consider how to protect yourself, your license and your practice. Are you prepared for every legal situation? There are many potential liabilities linked to your profession as a nurse. A nurse can be named as a defendant in a professional negligence case, for instance, or accused of violating the nurse practice act or its rules, defaming a fellow worker, breaching a contract of employment or breaching a patient’s confidentiality.

Don’t forget to protect yourself—here are some basics to help you legally protect your professional life.


1) Know your state nurse practice act and its rules and review them regularly.

2) Stay informed and attend board of nursing meetings.

3) Purchase and maintain a personal professional liability insurance policy.

4) Remain clinically current in your chosen specialty.

5) Participate in research or design to help support needed improvements in patient care. This can reduce your liability when providing care to patients.

6) Use evidence-based nursing practices.

7) Be mindful and present at all times when providing patient care or preparing and administering medications.

8) Participate in continuing education programs in nursing in order to maintain competency in the areas that you practice.

9) Enroll in an advanced degree nursing program to increase your ability to use critical thinking and problem solving skills in your practice.

10) Maintain a general knowledge of law applicable to nursing practice and your specific practice.

11) Maintain open lines of honest communication with nursing and other healthcare team members, patients and patients’ families.

12) Utilize a risk management approach when providing care to patients to decrease risk of injury or death of a patient.

13) Know your employee handbook, review it regularly for changes and follow your employer’s adopted policies and procedures.

14) If you’re a student or a faculty member in a nursing education program, learn your rights and responsibilities as stated in your faculty and student handbook.

15) Know your protections under workers’ compensation laws and report any injury in the workplace as required under the law.

16) If you’re a union member, evaluate your benefits and rights and use the bargaining agreement’s protections, as needed.

17) Uphold safety requirements in the workplace for yourself and patients.

18) Adhere strictly to your facility’s chain of command when reporting patient care issues.

19) Join and become an active member of professional nursing associations in your specialization.

20) Uphold the American Nurses Association’s code of ethics.

21) Observe age-old, good documentation principles when recording patient care.

22) Participate in the political process to shape legislation and elect legislators who support nursing.

23) If you’re an advanced practice registered nurse, place orders for medications, treatments and other healthcare regimens within your scope.

24) Avoid using bullying, intimidating or other behaviors that are not respectful of patients or fellow staff.

25) Retain a nurse attorney or attorney as soon as possible whenever you face potential legal liability.