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Liability Issues for School Nurses

January 21st, 2011

Working as a school nurse can be a very rewarding profession if you love helping children. However, because of the fact that you work in a school setting, you are subject to specific liability issues—administrative, civil, and criminal. Continue reading below to learn more about these specific liability issues and to learn how you can avoid them. After all, you don't want to risk losing your job, or worse—you license indefinitely.

When a school nurse is referred to their state's board of nursing to be investigated because of possible failure to meet state practice standards, this is called Administrative liability. If the school nurse is found at fault, he or she can be penalized in several different ways, including the temporary or permanent suspension of their nursing license.

On the other hand, school nurses are subject to civil liability when the question of negligence is brought to court. This particular type of liability is not resolved if there is proof of intent to harm. Instead, one is disciplined if there is proof that the school nurse failed to handle the situation like another "reasonable" nurse facing the same situation would. Generally, the causes of liability include but are not limited to the following: failure to make a good assessment; failure to adequately respond to emergency situations—especially with children who suffer from asthma and anaphylaxis; insufficient documentation of appropriate nursing care. Other cause include a failure to keep up to-date records; not abiding by district policy; failure to work and perform safely; and not effectively (or avoiding entirely) informing parents about their child's condition.

Lastly, a school nurse is subject to criminal liability if he or she participates in illegal activities, such as stealing controlled drugs from the school, having inappropriate contact with a child, or practicing medicine without a license. If a school nurse is found guilty of any of these accusations, typically he or she is required to pay a fine, serve a jail sentence (depending on the severity of the crime) and their nursing license may be revoked as well.