As occupational health nurses or school nurses, you should be aware of a few key legal liabilities to protect yourself and your patients. Here are some pieces of advice for nurses seeking employment in these roles:
- Know the laws and regulations that apply to your work: As an occupational health nurse or school nurse, you will be subject to various federal, state, and local laws and regulations. You must be familiar with these laws and regulations, which will guide your work and help you avoid legal liability. For example, you should be familiar with OSHA regulations, ADA regulations, and state laws regarding school health services (Jack et al., 2021).
- Keep accurate and complete records: Good record-keeping is essential in any nursing role, but it is particularly important in occupational health and school nursing. You should keep detailed records of all patient encounters, including assessments, treatments, and referrals. These records can indicate your actions and decisions if there is a legal dispute (Harding et al., 2019).
- Practice within your scope of practice: As a nurse, you are licensed to practice within a specific scope. You should be familiar with the scope of practice for occupational health and school nursing and ensure you do not exceed your authority. If you are asked to perform tasks or make decisions outside your scope of practice, you should speak up and seek guidance from your supervisor (Punnett et al., 2020).
- Follow the policies and procedures of your employer: Your employer will likely have policies and procedures in place that govern your work as an occupational health nurse or school nurse. It is important that you are familiar with these policies and procedures and that you follow them. This will help you avoid legal liability and ensure that you are providing safe and effective care (Harding et al., 2019).
- Seek legal advice if necessary: If you are ever unsure about your legal liability or are facing a legal dispute, it is important to seek legal advice. This may involve consulting with an attorney specializing in healthcare law or seeking guidance from your employer’s legal department. It is better to seek advice early on than wait until a legal dispute has escalated (Jack et al., 2021).
In summary, nurses pursuing employment as occupational health nurses or school nurses should be familiar with the laws and regulations that pertain to their work, keep accurate records, practice within their scope of practice, follow employer policies and procedures, and seek legal advice if necessary. Nurses can protect themselves and their patients from legal liability (Punnett et al., 2020).
Harding, L., Davison-Fischer, J., Bekaert, S., & Appleton, J. V. (2019). The role of the school nurse in protecting children and young people from maltreatment: An integrative review of the literature. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 92(1), 60–72.
Jack, S. M., Gonzalez, A., Marcellus, L., Tonmyr, L., Varcoe, C., Van Borek, N., Sheehan, D., MacKinnon, K., Campbell, K., Catherine, N., Kurtz Landy, C., MacMillan, H. L., & Waddell, C. (2021). Public health nurses’ professional practices to prevent, recognize and respond to suspected child maltreatment in home visiting: An interpretive descriptive study. Global Qualitative Nursing Research, 8, 233339362199345.
Punnett, L., Cavallari, J. M., Henning, R. A., Nobrega, S., Dugan, A. G., Cherniack, M. G., & CPH-NEW Research Team. (2020). Defining “Integration” for total worker health®: A new proposal. Annals of Work Exposures and Health, 64(3), 223–235.