Asked in Health Care Law for Minnesota

Q: Legality/Duty of a Nurse to inform patient/family of witnessed mistakes and/or neglect?

Are Nurses permitted to inform families of patients (or the patients themselves) of medical mistakes (medications, procedural) or substandard care such as neglect (leaving pts in excrement as a result of short staffing resulting in bedsores, falls with or without injury as r/t short staffing,etc)? For example, a Nurse witnesses blood product being administered to the wrong patient--there may and may not be lasting harm or a reaction at the time--is the Nurse permitted to inform the patient or the patient's family? Likewise, if a Nurse has proof of severe understaffing, unsafe staffing where patient(s) are neglected for hours, as Nurses cannot perform "standard of care", the Nurse documents a formal complaint with administration, but a pt falls with or without injury--is it legal to inform the patient's family of the fall and the reasons behind it? Proven mistakes and negligent care, not suspected, with proof (charting or other documentation). Can a Nurse provide pts/families info?

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1 Lawyer Answer

A: A nurse can discuss a patient’s health care with the patient, the parents of a patient who is a minor, with anyone holding the patient’s medical power of attorney, and with anyone the patient expressly authorizes to receive information regarding the patient’s health care (those identified on the patient’s HIPAA form).

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