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Can you tell me what the legal implications are for a faculty member and for a clinical preceptor supervising nursing students?

Friday March 22, 2013
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

Can you tell me what the legal implications are for a faculty member and for a clinical preceptor supervising nursing students? What are the differences, if any, in each clinician's supervisory role? Who is ultimately responsible for the student's safe practice? Are there any references you can direct me to that explain these legalities in more detail?

Nicole



Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Nicole,

Both the faculty member and the clinical preceptor share responsibility for the supervision of nursing students in the clinical area under the theory of negligent supervision. The faculty member's duties under a professional negligence framework are to ensure the student is able to safely perform the patient care responsibilities the student is undertaking and to provide guidance and direction where needed. If the faculty member failed to meet his or her duties, the faculty member and the nursing education program could be named in a suit filed by a patient, if the patient was injured due to the alleged negligence of the nursing student — and the student also could be named in the suit

The clinical preceptor's duties under a professional negligence framework are the same as the faculty member’s. The preceptor must ensure that the student assigned to a patient by the faculty member (or as a joint decision by both) is able to safely perform the patient care. The preceptor must check this with the faculty member and/or the nursing student. For example, the preceptor could ask the student, "Have you ever administered an IM injection before?" and "Describe how it is done." Monitoring of the student nurse also is a key duty of the clinical preceptor.

In addition, the preceptor must be able to determine which patients are candidates to work with a nursing student in terms of the patient's condition, consent to have a nursing student care for him or her, and the complexity of the care the patient needs. If a patient is injured due to the negligence of the preceptor, he or she could be named in the suit, along with the facility (under respondent superior), the faculty member and the nursing student.

In addition to a basic text on professional negligence, additional references you might want to review are: “Legal Issues Confronting Today's Nursing Faculty” (Glasgow, Dreher and Oxholm, DavisPlus Publishers, 2012); “Clinical Teaching Strategies In Nursing” (Gaberson and Oermann, Third Edition, Springer Publishing, 2010) and “Precepting Graduate Students In The Clinical Setting” (Case-DiLeonardi and others, Loyola University Chicago Niehoff School of Nursing Publishers, 2008).

Cordially,
Nancy




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.