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Are patients at risk when nurses perform a doctor’s usual tasks?

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

Although working in medicine is one of the best-paid professions, it is also an incredibly demanding career. Professionals need to commit years of their lives to higher education before they can ever secure a license and then have to work very demanding jobs in most cases.

The higher the standards for a position, the fewer people are likely to work to meet those standards. Therefore, many medical facilities in the last few years have had to confront a lack of adequate physician staffing and look into alternative ways to provide support for patients. One of the solutions embraced by numerous organizations has involved empowering certain nurses to handle tasks traditionally performed by doctors. Is this dangerous for patients?

The research on nurses handling cases is mixed

Anyone who has worked in a high-demand medical setting will likely confirm that nurses tend to know more of the details about what goes on with patients on any given day. They may have to step in and remind a doctor, for example, that a patient is on a medication that would interact with another drug or that they have an allergy. Nurses are the ones who typically provide hands-on care to patients and will therefore have a better sense of their symptoms and daily activity than the doctor who only sees them for a few moments at a time. In theory, therefore, allowing nurses to step into a more authoritative role in some circumstances could benefit certain patients.

However, research does not conclusively show that allowing nurses more authority when treating patients always works out to the benefit of the patients. Medical facilities may try to manipulate or even abuse such systems and may have fewer doctors available to guide and support the nurses providing care for patients. Adequate oversight from licensed professionals is of the utmost importance when making any major decisions regarding the treatment or diagnosis of an individual. Facilities and lawmakers alike will need to continue carefully balancing practical concerns, like the availability of skilled physicians, with the needs of the patients undergoing treatment and the factors that may affect their long-term prognosis.

Unfortunately, nurses and doctors alike can make mistakes when treating patients that result in poor outcomes. Occasionally, those mistakes may be significant enough to warrant a medical malpractice claim against an individual professional caregiver or a facility with inappropriate professional practices. Understanding how changing medical standards may impact the care received in a medical facility can help patients determine if a prior experience actually constitutes medical malpractice.