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The Ethics and Legalities of Medication Error Disclosure

The advance practice nurse is a healthcare professional who has to address numerous challenges. These professionals have to work in quite stressful environment, they have to be able to cooperate with other healthcare professionals, they also have to diagnose chronic diseases and prescribe drugs (Arcangelo & Peterson, 2013). Clearly, advanced practice nurses have to be compassionate, caring and responsible. These professionals should also take into account ethical and legal issues when completing their tasks. The scenario in question needs specific attention and any nurse should consider her/his actions under such circumstances.

In the first place, it is crucial to consider ethical and legal implications of disclosure and nondisclosure. Federal and state laws describe the prescription process in sufficient details and nurses can easily comply with the necessary rules when it comes to some general information (Byrne, 2010). When a nurse makes a mistake, there are a number of possible implications both ethical and legal. As has been mentioned above, all advanced practice nurses have to be skillful, experienced and responsible.

Therefore, if they make a mistake (or learn about other’s mistakes), they have to report about it to the facility’s staff or to a corresponding committee (Philipsen & Soeken, 2011). In Texas, there is a special board, Texas Nurses Association, which lists existing laws on whistleblowing (Philipsen & Soeken, 2011). Unfortunately, medical staff is still unprepared to report on mistakes (as they fear to be fired, lead to other person’s firing), which may often lead to health issues for the patient and legal issues for the facility (Anderson & Townsend, 2010). The patient or his/her relative may sue the healthcare facility as well as particular healthcare professionals for provision of inadequate services and possible negative effects it could have or actually had.

In the scenario in question, the nurse who made the mistake has to disclose the mistake she/he made. The nurse has to report to the corresponding committee and let the patient know about it (if necessary as some mistakes occur in documentation and may have no impact on the patient, at least, for certain period of time). The nurse should not try to conceal the mistake or hope nobody will find out. Any error in documentation (and especially when prescribing drugs) may have serious outcomes in the future as the nurse may have incomplete information about the conditions of the patient or the conditions may change and the drugs prescribed can become hazardous to the patient.

To make sure that the nurse is able to prescribe drugs properly, he/she has to visit numerous resources with the lists of drugs and various abbreviations (Drug Enforcement Administration, n.d.). Another vital thing for avoiding mistakes is adequate communication as loads of medication errors occur due to miscommunication among different healthcare professionals (Anderson & Townsend, 2010). These two strategies can help avoid errors though it is also important to take into account certain environmental and psychological issues (fatigue) and make sure the nurse is capable of addressing these problems.

In conclusion, it is possible to note that US nurses are still unprepared to report on their (or their colleagues’) errors. However, advanced practice nurses have to choose disclosure as this will prevent health issues of the patient, legal issues for the healthcare facility. It will also lead to improvement of the quality of the services provide and will be beneficial for development of the nurse.

Reference List

Anderson, P., & Townsend, T. (2010). Medication errors: Don’t let them happen to you. American Nurse Today, 5(3), 23–28.

Arcangelo, V.P., & Peterson, A.M. (2013). Pharmacotherapeutics for advanced practice: A practical approach. Ambler, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Byrne, W. (2010). U.S. nurse practitioner prescribing law: A state-by-state summary. Medscape Nurses. Web.

Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Mid-level practitioners authorization by state. Web.

Philipsen, N.C., & Soeken, D. (2011). Preparing to blow the whistle: A survival guide for nurses. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 7(9), 740–746.