1. Palatnik, AnneMarie MSN, RN, APN-BC

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When we talk about legal issues and nursing, most often we're referring to things that we as nurses need to do to avoid legal ramifications of practice. In this issue, Sally Austin shares "Seven legal tips for safe nursing practice," covering topics from medication administration to proper use of equipment. These are seven must-do's in practice, and should be done on every patient, every day to help bring about positive patient outcomes and enhance an outstanding patient experience. But as you read this article please try to remember that there are more than just seven legal tips, and that patient outcomes, not concern for legal implications, should drive our practice.

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Nurses also are involved in the "Law and Order" side of legal issues and nursing. Forensic nurses help identify and preserve evidence during the investigation of crimes. Legal nurse consultants assist in the prosecution or defense of alleged offenders.


According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, "Forensic nursing is the application of nursing science to public or legal proceedings. Forensic nurses have the ability to blend the forensic aspects of healthcare with the bio-psycho-social education obtained during their nurse education to assist in the investigation and treatment of trauma and/or death of victims and perpetrators of abuse, violence, criminal activity, and traumatic accidents." The forensic nurse not only examines and cares for the patient but also maintains the integrity of the evidence found on or with the patient.


According to the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, "the legal nurse consultant is a licensed, registered nurse who performs a critical analysis of clinical and administrative nursing practice, healthcare facts and issues and their outcomes for the legal profession, healthcare professions, consumers of healthcare and legal services, and others as appropriate. With a strong educational and experiential foundation, the legal nurse consultant is qualified to assess adherence to standards and guidelines of healthcare practice as it applies to the nursing and healthcare professions."


The forensic nurse can also act as a legal nurse consultant for the prosecution or defense, presenting evidence found as a result of patient assessment, or providing insight to patient care and adherence to standards of practice. According to, legal nurse consultants provide cost-effective litigation assistance.


So if nurses provide assistance to both the law and order sides, why don't we see nurses in these roles on any of the TV crime dramas? Maybe this is an opportunity for one of us to have our 15 minutes of fame. Who's up for the challenge?


Until the next time: Be healthy, be happy, and be great advocates for your patients!!


AnneMarie Palatnik, MSN, RN, APN-BC

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Director of Clinical Learning Center for Learning Virtua Health Mount Laurel, N.J.




American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.


International Association of Forensic Nurses.


The Forensic Nurse.