1. Brooke, Penny Simpson APRN, MS, JD

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As an RN in a pediatrician's office, I know I'm legally obligated to report evidence of child abuse. But what about outside my job? If I suspect a child is being abused but I haven't examined her, am I legally required to report the alleged abuse because I'm a health care professional?-B.H., ARIZ.


You don't have to personally examine a child to report suspected child abuse. Reasonable suspicion, based upon your expertise as a nurse, is a valid reason to make a report.


Child abuse protection laws in most states require nurses and other health care professionals to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse. And most statutes provide immunity from prosecution if the report is made in good faith and based on a reasonable suspicion that a child is in danger. In some states, someone who fails to report this suspicion might even be held responsible as an accessory.


In general, laws written to protect vulnerable people, such as children and the elderly, encourage any citizen, health care professional or not, to report suspected abuse. Do a computer search to learn exactly what the law requires in your state.