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Can You Sue a Nurse for Medical Malpractice?

If you go to the hospital, chances are you will see and speak with nurses much more than you will your doctor or surgeon. Nurses provide critical services at hospitals, nursing homes, and extended care facilities. They receive rigorous education so they can provide high-quality care to patients who need it.

Unfortunately, nurses are not immune from carelessness and errors. They can provide substandard care which ultimate compromises their patient’s health and, sometimes, leads to a tragic early death. At Powers & Santola, LLP, we can help anyone injured by medical negligence, including nursing negligence. Please call a Syracuse medical malpractice attorney to go over the details of your case and check if you can sue a nurse or other professional.

Examples of Nursing Malpractice

Nurses are subject to many of the same difficulties as doctors, including too many patients, poor record-keeping, and burnout. However, nurses must follow the correct standard of care. Nursing malpractice takes many forms, such as the following. 

Medication Errors

Nurses dispense medication to patients, and any carelessness can harm patients:

  • Dispensing the wrong medication
  • Failing to dispense medication according to schedule
  • Giving too much or too little medication
  • Failing to note any side effects or allergic reactions
  • Medication errors prevent patients from healing properly and might even make a patient sicker.

Failing to Monitor a Patient’s Condition 

Nurses should regularly monitor a patient’s progress. A negligent nurse might rarely come around. Further, the nurse might ignore certain alarms which sound if a patient falls out of bed or their heart stops beating. This type of neglect can have serious consequences, even death.

Failing to Document a Condition

Nurses have a responsibility for documenting a patient’s condition using records and charts. A nurse might fail to make a proper notation on the chart or enter incorrect information, which a doctor or other nurse relies on. For example, a nurse might fail to note that she gave a patient medication, so the night nurse gives a second dose unintentionally.

Failing to Communicate a Change in Condition

Doctors rely on nurses to tell them about changes in how a patient feels. Some critical pieces of information include whether the patient is improving or whether new symptoms have emerged. A negligent nurse might fail to convey this information to the doctor.

Negligent Wound Care

Nurses are primarily responsible for cleaning and dressing wounds. A nurse might do so improperly and either cause an infection or fail to note that a patient is already struggling with one. An infection can get much worse and progress to sepsis if not properly treated.

Injuring a Patient with Medical Equipment

A nurse could carelessly injure patients by stabbing them in the wrong place with a needle or knocking over equipment that lands on the patient, causing injury. Some nurses are responsible for repositioning patients and might accidentally roll them out of bed and onto the floor.

Failing to Follow Doctor’s Instructions

Doctors give nurses many instructions for patient care. These instructions can include everything from administering medication to having a patient walk after surgery. A nurse might fail to follow these orders, possibly because they are too busy or simply forgot. This type of negligence delays a patient’s ability to heal.

Can You Sue for Nursing Malpractice?

Yes. New York’s medical malpractice laws apply fully to nurses. If a nurse fails to provide competent care, then a patient can seek compensation for their pain, income loss, and additional medical expenses. Depending on the facts, we might sue the nurse, hospital, or doctor.


The nurse who failed to provide proper care is legally liable for any injuries caused. Like doctors, nurses owe patients a legal duty to provide care equal to what other nurses in the community would provide under similar situations. This standard does not require that nurses be perfect or that they be mind readers. If you experience intense back pain but never tell your nurse, she is not liable for failing to guess you are experiencing a painful side effect from surgery. But the nurse’s care must meet the minimum standard we expect of nurses.


In many cases, a hospital is also legally liable for nursing malpractice. In New York, an employer is automatically liable when their employees injure someone negligently while on the job. This law also applies to nurses, most of whom are hospital employees.

A hospital might also have independent liability for:

  • Understaffing. Many nurses are juggling too many patients, which leads predictably to substandard care. A hospital cannot compromise patient health by cutting corners in this manner.
  • Failing to supervise. Hospitals should provide adequate supervision of nurses. This supervision can include a duty to investigate complaints against specific nurses.
  • Negligent hiring. A hospital can’t grab anyone off the street but should perform a basic background check and ensure a nurse has the necessary credentials to work in New York.

Hospitals make ideal defendants. They should have ample insurance, and suing them is a way to force change at an institution that chronically shortchanges patients.

Attending Doctors

Sometimes, an attending doctor will also share liability for nursing malpractice. This happens most often when the attending doctor had the power to control the nurse’s actions, typically because the doctor is present when the nurse administers the wrong medication. A doctor has a duty to stop a nurse from carelessly injuring a patient.

Call Powers & Santola Today

A key issue with any medical malpractice case is evidence. The reality is that patients have little understanding of medicine and no idea of what is happening. All they know is they went to the hospital feeling sick—and ended up even sicker. Clearly, something happened along the way, but no one answers their questions or fesses up that they made a mistake.

This is where a lawyer is your best friend. Our Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys know how to find evidence to use in your case. We can request patient records, talk to nurses and doctors, and submit questions to the hospital for them to answer. Call our firm today to schedule a meeting.

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