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Prepare Now for Professional Accountability

Your path to career satisfaction and success

“My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

As a college student, you did everything you could to succeed. You studied and came to class prepared. You accepted the responsibility of doing your best because you knew that this would prepare you for your dream…a career in nursing.

Now, passing the NCLEX and becoming licensed initiates you into one of the most highly respected and ethical professions - one that requires a high level of accountability.

After all your hard work and, yes, even sacrifice, it makes sense to do everything you can to protect your license.

It makes sense to prepare now for what’s ahead.

Ready yourself for new responsibilities

Professional accountability is an ongoing commitment to yourself and your career. You have the power to consciously take ownership for your actions and hold yourself accountable for outcomes.

To uphold your commitment, you must provide nursing care that:

  1. Uses evidence to guide practice
  2. Complies with professional standards
  3. Stays within your scope of practice
  4. Follows workplace policies and procedures

Accountability requires you to be able to explain how each nursing choice or workplace behavior uphold these commitments.

Being accountable builds trust with your coworkers and patients, their families and significant others. But it also requires that you prepare now to prevent costly errors.

Fend off costly errors

Although all of us hope for positive outcomes, even for the most seasoned nurse can make a mistake.  Accountable nurses prepare for these moments now so that they will know what to do when they make a mistake.

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. High-stress clinical situations, demanding patients and families, and/or difficult coworkers can challenge even the most capable nurse.

During a busy shift, it’s easier to forget to do something! And these oversights can increase the likelihood of legal liability.

For instance, nurses who do not fully assess and monitor patients, or who fail to contact the treating practitioner for additional medical treatment when a patient’s condition worsens:

  • Increase the risk of harm to patients, and
  • Increase the odds of being accused of professional negligence (also known as malpractice).

Stress can easily get the best of you. All it takes is a momentary lapse to say something regrettable and be accused of unprofessional conduct. Now is the time to fully embrace professionalism.

Show yourself to be a true professional

In NCSBN Learning Extension’s newly updated CE course, Professional Accountability & Legal Liability for Nurses, we provide an overview of legal issues affecting nurses, including professional negligence.

You’ll review strategies to reduce practice errors and avoid getting into legal trouble. And, you’ll solidify your knowledge of best practices as you:

  • Better understand your role in patient assignments.
  • Consider how to supervise other health care workers.
  • Explain the difference between assignment and delegation.
  • Gain strategies to communicate safely and effectively with others.
  • Learn when and how to use the chain of command.

Nurses continue to be one voted as the professionals with the highest honesty and ethical standards. By protecting your hard-won license, you can look forward to a long career making a difference in the lives of others.

Now it’s your turn

We have devoted an entire week to the topic of professional accountability and legal liability for nurses. Be sure to check out our daily posts on social media.

What have you learned? Get the conversation moving by retweeting our posts and sharing your insights and personal stories with us.

  • Hi sue! I am preparing for the nclex-rn exam. Could you please discuss organ donation since this is a new topic in the latest test plan?  Thanks.  Maria :)

  • @041661rr: Organ donation was new to the 2016 NCLEX-RN Test Plan []. While there's nothing specific in the Test Plan about what this means, I feel fairly confident that  the  topic relates to client education, ethical practice, advocacy and referrals.

    Here are two articles with information that may help: 1) from Critical Care Nurse, The Role of Critical Care Nurses in the Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative [] and 2) from AJN, U.S. Organ Donations: Nurses Can Make a Difference.

    Best wishes,


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