1. Cady, Rebecca F. JD, BSN, RNC, Attorney-at-Law, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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As we go to press, there has been a very interesting court ruling that reflects a breakthrough in nurses being able to demonstrate that nursing is a unique profession with responsibilities that belong to nurses alone. The Illinois Supreme Court, in the case of Sullivan v. Edward Hospital (No. 95409, 2004 WL 228956, February 5, 2004), ruled that only a nurse is qualified to offer opinion evidence as to the nursing standard of care. The issue in this case was whether a physician who is not also a nurse should be allowed to offer expert opinion evidence as to the standard of care for nurses. The court rejected the plaintiffs' position that physicians can do anything a nurse can do and, therefore, a physician can always testify as to the standard of care for nurses. The court disagreed, holding that a physician is not qualified to give testimony regarding the standard of care for the nursing profession or the nurse's alleged deviation from that standard. The court noted that a physician who is not a nurse is no more qualified to offer expert opinion testimony as to the standard of care for nurses than a nurse would be to offer an opinion as to the standard of care for physicians. It also noted that physicians often have no first-hand knowledge of nursing practice other than observations made in patient care settings, so the physician could not give opinions in jurisdictions that require the expert to be familiar with the standard of care to testify as an expert. The court felt that by enacting the Nursing and Advanced Practice Nursing Act, the state legislature established a unique licensing and regulatory structure for the nursing profession. Under the Act, a physician would not meet the qualification for licensure as a registered nurse nor would the physician even be eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination. The court agreed that to allow physicians to testify as to the nursing standard of care would be to risk the imposition of a higher standard of care on nursing.

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Although this opinion has not been ordered published yet and is therefore subject to change, it gives some helpful insights as to how we, as nurses, can define ourselves and our profession to help others understand what nursing is really all about. In this time of increased litigation and continued shortage of nurses, it is imperative that we take the initiative to define ourselves and not let physicians and others define us. Without a clear sense of who we are as nurses, we cannot fix the nursing shortage. Without a clear sense of who we are as nurses, we cannot avoid litigation. The articles in this issue fit in nicely with this theme. Our continuing education unit feature discusses the concept of centers for nursing excellence and how this concept can help to better define nursing within an institution and community-definitely worth a read in light of this court ruling. Our other feature article deals with moral turpitude as it relates to licensure of nurses, which highlights some clear inconsistencies in the way various states approach this issue. Spring appears to be coming to the Northeast despite what the groundhog has said. A good time to consider: How does your facility define the role and responsibilities of your nursing staff? Is this definition true to what nursing is really all about? If not, what can you do to remedy this? Is some Spring cleaning in order?