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How responsible am I, as the only licensed healthcare provider in my school system?

Monday December 10, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I am the only RN in my school system. Part of my job is to supervise several unlicensed assistants who take care of all the day-to-day tasks with students. I have several concerns with the way that this is being handled and have voiced this to my supervisor. While well- meaning, she has a teaching degree, and little understanding of nursing law and the effect that all of this could have on my license. I am frequently told that anything that would come up would be the school’s responsibility, not mine. I am very concerned about this. How responsible am I, as the only licensed healthcare provider? How at risk is my license, and what am I to do when my legal concerns are falling on deaf ears?

School Nurse

Dear Donna replies:

Dear School Nurse,

It sounds like you have a lot of concerns need to be addressed. Aren't there any other nurses in a nearby school system or district with whom you can talk? If you don't belong to the National Association of School Nurses (www.nasn.org), you can at least contact your local chapter and speak to someone who might be able to give you some information and advice. You should be attending chapter meetings of this association, as a guest if you are not a member. You cannot remain isolated and be successful in any specialty in nursing these days.

Your other option is to consult a nurse attorney to get your questions answered. Some of your concerns may be unfounded, while others may be legitimate. The only way to find that out is to consult an expert. A nurse attorney is uniquely qualified to interpret the law and your state’s nurse practice act. Although this may seem like an intimidating step to take, it would be well worth it to know where you stand and how to protect yourself.

Your supervisor's statement that anything that happens would fall on the school is not necessarily correct. That is why consulting a nurse attorney might be the best thing to do in your case. I certainly hope you have nursing liability insurance. If not, get some.

Find a nurse attorney in your area by asking around, getting a referral from your state chapter of NASN and/or the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org), or through The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (www.taana.org). Your peace of mind, your license and your livelihood are at stake.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.