What Is a Nurse’s Duty of Care?

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According to “A Dictionary of Nursing” cited on Encyclopedia.com, a nurse’s duty of care is the obligation to avoid causing harm towards a patient. If a nurse falls short of expected obligations, she may be charged with negligence.

Education.com explains that nurses work to promote their patients’ best interests and nonmaleficence. A nurse’s duty includes caring for her patients with competence and diligence. All nurses in the same specialty should provide an equal amount of care. Standards of care are provided by the nurse practice act for the state, national nursing specialty standards of care and scope of practice and hospital protocols. Nurses also hold a set of health care ethics, which are standards of conduct and moral judgement.

The American Nurses Association created a Code of Ethics for Nurses in 1985, and it was revised in 2001 to include advances in nursing science, notes Education.com. Ethics and personal values must be separate. Nurses use proper judgment to determine a fair amount of time and attention paid to each patient and to respect patients’ decisions. A nurse must focus on risk-management for high-level-need patients to minimize liability. Risk-management training is provided by health care facilities, and some states require this for license initiation or renewal. When a nurse does not meet the standards of care, she causes a breach in her duty.