Nursing patient abandonment under Texas law

We regularly speak with potential clients who have concerns that they or a loved one were injured because of patient abandonment.

Typically, the underlying situation involves a physician who terminated a patient from his or her care. Doctors are required to follow certain procedures to make sure that ending the physician-patient relationship doesn’t place the patient in danger. Patients need adequate time to find a new doctor and without one can be placed in a crunch for getting prescription refills or necessary follow-up care.

There are also situations, though, where registered nurses are involved in patient abandonment claims. Understandably, nursing patient abandonment cases usually arise in hospital settings, most often in the emergency room (ER).

When a patient presents to a hospital emergency room for care, a triage nurse is usually the first healthcare provider to conduct a patient interview and evaluation. The triage nurse is a registered nurse whose job is to assess incoming patients and prioritize their access to care based on established triage levels.

While patients are waiting to be seen, it’s up to the ER nursing staff to monitor patients, reassess them, and ensure that they are in a safe environment.

The Texas Board of Nursing requires all nurses, regardless of practice setting or position title to follow the Board’s rules and regulations. For example, Rule 217.11 requires nurses to promote a safe environment for clients and others.

We’re currently working on a case where a patient fell and broke his hip while waiting to be seen in the hospital ER. The triage nurse and another ER nurse separately assessed the patient and noted several factors the placed him at a higher risk of falling, including his age and medications he was taking. Despite actual awareness of these facts, the nursing staff at the hospital ER failed to implement fall prevention measures to promote a safe environment.

In medical malpractice cases, hospital lawyers often try to shift blame away from nurses and onto physicians. There’s appellate court precedence, though, that Rule 217.11 creates a duty for a nurse to promote patient safety that supersedes the physician’s order or hospital policy. That case is styled Lunsford v. Board of Nurse Examiners, 648 S.W.2d 391 (Tex. App.—Austin 1983, no writ). You can read the opinion here. In other words, nurses can’t escape responsibility for patient safety by saying that the doctor made them do it or wouldn’t let them do it.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of patient abandonment in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.