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Our ED director wants us to start treatment on patients in the waiting room before a room is available. Legally, is this a good idea?

Wednesday February 13, 2013
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Dear Nancy,

Our ED director wants us to start treatment on patients in the waiting room before a room is available, doing blood draws, X-rays, etc. Legally, is this a good idea? Do other EDs do this routinely?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Tim,

Providing care to any patient in an open public place is probably not the best idea under normal circumstances. However, with certain protections in place, it may be possible. For example, the privacy and confidentiality of any patient must be protected. Perhaps more routine treatments, such as vitals or blood draws, would be best suited for such an arrangement. Some issues might arise that have not been thought about yet. For example, how do you deal with other patients in the waiting room who might object to the procedures going on in front of them? Your best resource is your facility's general counsel who can advise you on patient care matters such as this.

In preparation for your meeting with the general counsel, you might want to check the Emergency Nurses Association's website at www.ena.org. Search for position statements and preview the many position statements the ENA has published concerning ED nursing care. Also available are joint statements, which are statements that are supported by the ENA, and an archive of their past position statements.

Another resource is your ED nurse colleagues in other facilities. Ask whether they are doing this, and if so, how is it working out?


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.