Being without a trusted healthcare professional that you are dependent upon is a scary proposition. As professionals, we owe a duty to our clients to make sure they are in the proper hands when our obligation to them has concluded. To this end, the NC Board of Nursing considers patient abandonment a notable offense. However, patient abandonment can be easily avoided with adherence to policies and procedures as well as communication. We talk about what is considered patient abandonment and how to avoid it in our latest blog post.
The definition of patient abandonment is “abandoning an assigned client without making arrangements for the continuation of equivalent nursing care”. This is found under 21 NCAC 36 .0217, which was created by the NC Board of Nursing. Once a licensed nurse or nurse practitioner has accepted an assignment, he/she is responsible for the patient’s care until another licensed nurse/NP takes responsibility for the patient. Transferring responsibility includes providing patient status to the next licensed nurse or caregiver. Caregivers can accept transfer of the patient if in a home care setting. Prior to ending your shift, make sure you have notified your immediate supervisor and making reasonable arrangements for the continuation of the patient’s care. This will help avoid a complaint for patient abandonment.
Nurses/NPs that are on-call are required to be available to respond when needed. Failure to respond and report for on-call patient care without adequate notification to an immediate supervisor can be considered abandonment. However, if a nurse/NP does not remain on duty past their scheduled work time, it is not considered patient abandonment. This, of course, assumes that the nurse/NP has properly reported off client status to another nurse and management. According to the NC Board of Nursing, it is not considered abandonment if a nurse/NP is a “no call, no show”. No call, no show means the nurse/NP didn’t show up for her/his shift and didn’t call ahead to notify a supervisor that they weren’t showing up for work.
Communication seems to be the key in avoiding a complaint for patient abandonment. Also, don’t make assumptions that someone is taking over your patients, get confirmation. Make sure you have a good working relationship with your supervisor so you both communicate clearly with each other. Anytime communication is verbalized and not written, there can be credibility issues. If you can, communicate your continuation of care and that your shift has ended via writing. This way there is no argument that you did not make arrangements for continuation of care and/or adequate notification to your immediate supervisor that you are leaving.
Patient abandonment is a relatively easy thing to avoid if you make sure you communicate clearly and to the proper people. The last thing anyone wants is to leave his/her patient unattended and without access to proper medical professionals. Your employer should have policies and procedures in place to avoid any mistakes that may lead to patient abandonment. Ask her/him for a copy of all policies and procedures to be clear on what is expected of you.
This information is not meant to be taken as legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. If you have a question or need representation for a professional license issue, contact North State Law at 919-521-8810.