Accountability is an ethical term used to refer to legal responsibility. When used about health care, the term possesses the meaning of moral responsibility of professional nurses and practitioners to patients. Professional accountability is an enormous term that applies to anyone directly involved in healthcare. For us to understand better we need to integrate into the medical field.

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Professional Accountability of Nurses

The medical field just like any other sector in society is governed by the law. To be specific, it is normally categorized under common law in all judicial systems. The common law of negligence is the subcategory of law that normally deals with professional accountability. Any mishaps by a practicing nurse lead to accountability of the outcome. A simple procedure of admitting a patient requires extreme caution what transpires within the period of the patients stay in the medical facility can lead to liability

One common mistake exhibited by professionals in the field is delegation of duties by persons. Nurses should be wary of delegating duties to colleagues nursing auxiliaries and care, assistants. The nurse should be aware of the abilities of the person with whom he or she is delegating duties. This is to minimize any chance of poor service delivery. Poor patient attendance by a person tasked with the duty at the time of delivery will extend the liability to the Nurse delegating duties.

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The accountability of nurses is pinpointed and well within the realm of law. A nurse is accountable to all the patients he or she is expected to attend to. Such accountability as underlined by common law helps promote the safety of all patients around the globe. Moreover, a professional nurse is restricted by liability to the employer. This type of accountability can only be tabled by contractual claims. In the UK for example, an employer is supposed to issue a contract to the employee within the first four months of the job. A detailed analysis of the contract should at least possess the signature of the employee, terms, and conditions of employment or an agreement between both parties.

Accountability to the profession is one other important aspect that provides an umbrella to all professional nurses. The UKCC for example has set standards of measure of accountability of nurses in an individualistic manner. It is very difficult for all clauses to provide all situational guidelines to each scenario. Thus, it is of essence that nurses depict a higher degree of autonomy in their practice. They should be able to judge their abilities regarding a given medical situation. Such a nurse will be able to refer patients to more qualified practitioners if he or she can’t handle the situation. The safest way for a nurse is to turn down any delegated duty if he or she cannot produce the required standards. A nurse should also be able to improve his or her professional abilities and competence. This can be done by gaining more and more experience in the field and access to higher education. At the end of the day, a nurse should sit down and analyze their strengths and weaknesses for better performance in the future.

As a nurse, standards, and accountability are inseparable. The measure of standards is governed by an element of people’s point of view Lippincott et al (2013). A nurse may consider a certain kind of service delivery as a perfect delivery. In contrast, the patient may find the delivery rather below par and unacceptable In medical practice, a team of nurses associated with patient attendance should work together in setting standards of service delivery. One mode of eliminating individualistic standards among nurses is by creating a conceptual framework that governs the standards of service delivery. Quality service delivery statements and protocols can assist in the alignment of standards. According to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, deviations in healthcare service delivery can be minimized by applying such government policies.

For us to clearly understand the scope of nursing accountability let us take a case scenario. In our scenario, we have a patient suffering from throat cancer. This came to be known when a consultant physician diagnosed the patient. In medicine, a consultant physician is known to be a general practitioner (Caufield,2011). Knowing this fact what can the nurse tell the devastated patient? Will the nurse tell the patient to concur with the fact that throat cancer is generally an incurable disease? Let us say the nurse specializes in cancer treatment and the knowledge he or she has should be able to assist the patient. By telling the patient to visit a specialist in cancer treatment-oncologist, the nurse shows medical integrity. The patient is hopeful but not through false hope.

Let us say that the doctor thinks that by performing radiology the patient will be better. Since the nurse is employed in the oncology department, he or she is assigned the task Yoder-wise et al (2007). The problem is that he or she has never performed the task. The nurse calls on to the charge nurse to assist in the administration. The action by the nurse to turn down the task is of the interest of the patient. Any risks would have put the patient’s life in danger.

Let us now say that a bed-ridden patient complains to a nurse of long-term pain and a wish to die peacefully. The patient says that he or she does not want their family to know. To complicate the situation, the doctor in charge does not support Hospice. Also, the family thinks the patient can still fight on. What then will a nurse do in this situation? The patient tells the nurse about hospice and organizes all procedural documents until the peaceful death of the patient. Is this acceptable? Yes, it is. Legally and ethically that is.

Complex situations occur if the patient is pediatric. The interests of the nurse, in this case, should involve both the child and the family. The nurse can not only bank on the child’s decision lest he or she lands in trouble with the law. The parents should be informed if they are not present. If the nurse had ignored the oncology patient’s wishes, Health, Portability, and accountability act would have been violated.

Nurses should be keenly decisive in this modern world as lots of agencies govern healthcare today. Some include.

  1. The joint commission dwells on the competency of nurses and safety issues about patients.
  2. The patient bill of rights deals with the mode of care of patients in healthcare facilities.


Professional nurses are should be able to apply professional judgment to the dynamic medical field. All of them are expected to be accountable in the practice in that any actions and gaps left will be questionable. With all regulatory bodies put in place, they are expected to practice epitomes and excellent decision-making in the best interests of the legally entrusted party. This will put to drop in litigation of medical practitioners under common negligence law.

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