TRAINING NURSES TO BE EXPERT WITNESSES
Recognizing that legal consulting is a growing career option for nurses, the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing is offering a course on preparing and providing testimony on questions of professional conduct and standards of practice in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities.
The course is open to advanced practice nurses and nurse executives, who are increasingly playing a role in malpractice and negligence claims waged against health care providers.
"While physicians can certainly speak to medical care and treatment, they are not familiar with the nursing role or nursing standards," said Joan Shaver, dean of the UIC College of Nursing, one of the top ten nursing schools in the country. "Only nurses can understand and evaluate the scope of practice, the professional standards for nursing practice and the hierarchy of clinical decision making, that are relevant in these legal cases."
Recent examples of cases in which nurse expert witnesses testified include claims of negligence against a night-duty nurse who ceased cardiopulmonary resuscitation after 15 minutes without a physician's pronouncement of death and against a pediatric nurse who allegedly delayed treatment for a life-threatening condition in a newborn.
The four-day UIC course, beginning Sept. 21, is the only such university-based course in the Midwest.
It includes sessions on legal concepts, terms and definitions, including medical negligence, standards of care and "reasonable" health care provision; the role of codefendants; potential conflicts of interest; and ethical issues. It also includes instruction on reviewing health care records, conducting investigations and analyses, evaluating cases for damages and causation, and working with attorneys.
Through case studies and role-playing, participants will learn to evaluate the merits of a potential medical negligence claim and testify at a deposition or trial. The course, including skill-building practice, will be taught by Mary Ann O'Reilly, a practicing nurse attorney experienced in representing both plaintiffs and defendants.
For more information on the UIC College of Nursing, visit www.uic.edu/nursing. A link from the homepage provides more details on the expert witness course.
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