1. Brooke, Penny Simpson RN, MS, JD

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This year, I'm mentoring some nursing students. A few days ago, a student was trying to draw blood from a patient while under my supervision and frankly botched it. She did get a specimen, but only after several tries. The patient put up with it and didn't ask us to stop, but she later developed a large bruise. Now she wants me, the student nurse, and the hospital held accountable for poor care. Does she have a case, and if so, who's liable?-M.W., S.C.

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By monitoring your student's technique by her side, you were likely meeting your duty to supervise her. If you determined that the student was harming the patient and didn't have the ability to perform the task safely, then you should have taken over the procedure. However, the patient was giving her implied consent for the care by not objecting during the blood draw itself. If she'd asked the student to stop, she would have been withdrawing her consent for care, and the student should have stopped immediately.


The patient's complaint after the fact will be evaluated based upon the level of injury she received. A court would probably not conclude that she received an actionable injury based upon bruising alone.


In determining negligence, the court would also evaluate whether you breached any duty as the student's supervisor. If you and the student were acting as reasonably prudent nurses under similar circumstances in accordance with your facility's policies and procedures, you were working within the standard of care expected of you.


Nursing students do need to learn how to safely give care, and nurses accept the supervisory role in all teaching hospitals. Many hospitals include language in their admission packet and obtain consent for care by students at admission.


You should always file an occurrence/event report in cases like this. The patient's complaint should be addressed before a lawsuit develops.