What Is The Medical Liability of Nurse Practitioners?

Posted on September 28, 2017

Nurse Practitioners are registered nurses with advanced training and expertise. They are allowed to see patients, prescribe medicine, make diagnoses and more.  NPs work closely with physicians and can perform up to 80 percent of the functions a primary care doctor can. So how do NPs associated with physicians affect medical malpractice cases?

photo by Darko Stojanovic

NPs have been involved in less than one percent of medical malpractice cases. They work under the supervision of the physicians they are employed by. But as their scope of responsibilities begins to rise, so could their liability.

Nurse practitioners are increasingly seeing malpractice claims for failure to diagnose and delay in coming to a correct diagnosis. They have also seen lawsuits for failure to provide proper care and treatment and medication subscribing errors. The reason malpractice suits are so low against NPs is because they typically have a supervising physician above them who is responsible for making sure they are doing their job correctly.

Parties Responsible For Medical Malpractice Actions

Individual providers

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers can be held liable in a medical malpractice case. The following statements must be true in order for an individual provider to be responsible:

  • The provider was responsible for taking care of the patient/plaintiff
  • The provider deviated from the standard of care enforced by the hospital/clinic
  • The patient suffered injury
  • The plaintiff’s injury was direct result of the provider’s deviation/negligence


Hospitals can also be held liable in medical malpractice cases. There are two ways they can be held liable:

Direct hospital negligence – Hospitals can be held directly liable for actions such as hiring someone without putting them through a screening process and carefully checking their credentials and not having enough staff on duty at all times. They can also be responsible if its staff doesn’t follow the orders of a patient’s private physician’s orders. Hospitals are also required to keep current records, admit and discharge patients properly and provide all patients with the best care possible.

Vicarious liability – When a hospital’s employee is responsible for a patient injury, the hospital can be liable under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. This doctrine protects employees when they were working under the standard and scope of the hospital.