Legal Issue in Nursing Scenario

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The Legal and Professional Implications of an incident witnessed during clinical placement.

This paper highlights an incident that occurred during a clinical placement. It will also address any legal or professional issues that surround it. Any details of the patient or institution have been withheld to maintain confidentiality. This is in line with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics for Nurses and Midwifes (2008).

Mr John Jones had suffered a stroke and had severe difficulties with swallowing (Dysphagia). He was unable to take in any fluid or medicine orally. These had to be given via a Pecutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG) tube into his stomach. Mr Jones was aware of his treatment. However, during a shift a newly qualified nurse (NQN) tried to administer John’s medicine orally despite John’s refusal to accept the treatment. John was extremely upset and distressed by the nurse’s actions and verbally refused to take the drug orally. The drug was also documented to be given via the PEG tube. The incident was then witnessed by a more senior nurse who then administered the medication correctly.

This incident outlines several issues concerning legal and professional accountability. According to Dimond (2011) ‘Accountability’ is defined as how far a person can be held in law to account for their actions. This seems an appropriate definition to give because a person who has to answer to the law then has a vital responsibility. Griffith & Tengnah (2008) however points out a distinct difference between ‘accountability’ and ‘responsibility’. A responsibility means a nurse can control the way they practice. Accountability on the other hand means they are answerable to a higher authority for their practice. Dimond (2011) tells us that every nurse is accountable to criminal law, civil law, the NMC and his/her employer.

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