Chapter 05: Legal and Ethical Issues


Chapter 05: Legal and Ethical Issues
Yoder-Wise: Leading and Managing in Nursing, 6th Edition


1. The manager in the coronary care unit believes that the most important ethical considerations in performance evaluations are that they include the employee’s good qualities and that they give positive direction for professional growth. This belief is an example of:
a. Justice.
b. Fidelity.
c. Beneficence.
d. Nonmaleficence.
Nonmaleficence refers to “doing no harm.” For a nurse manager following this principle, performance evaluation should emphasize an employee’s good qualities and give positive direction for growth. Destroying the employee’s self-esteem and self-worth would be considered doing harm under this principle.

REF: Page 92 TOP: AONE competency: Professionalism

2. A staff nurse in the area that you manage has excelled in the delivery of patient education. You are considering implementing a new job description that would broaden her opportunity to teach patients and orient new staff members to the value of patient education. The ethical principle that you are most directly reinforcing is:
a. Justice.
b. Fidelity.
c. Paternalism.
d. Respect for others.
The principle of paternalism allows one person to make partial decisions for another and is most frequently deemed to be a negative or undesirable principle. Paternalism, however, may be used to assist persons to make decisions when they do not have sufficient data or expertise. Paternalism becomes undesirable when the entire decision is taken away from the employee.

REF: Page 92 TOP: AONE competency: Professionalism

3. A patient refuses a simple procedure that you believe is in the patient’s best interest. The two ethical principles that are directly in conflict in such a situation are:
a. Fidelity and justice.
b. Veracity and fidelity.
c. Autonomy and beneficence.
d. Paternalism and respect for others.
Autonomy refers to the freedom to make a choice (e.g., refuse a procedure), and beneficence to doing good (performing a procedure that will benefit the patient).

REF: Page 91 | Page 92 TOP: AONE competency: Professionalism

4. An individual in a wheelchair is applying for the position of receptionist in an outpatient clinic. The nurse manager understands that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires that employers:
a. Make reasonable accommodations for persons who are disabled.
b. Allow modified job expectations for persons recovering from alcoholism.
c. Hire disabled individuals before hiring other qualified, non-disabled persons.
d. Treat, for purposes of employment, homosexuals and bisexuals as disabled.
The purposes of the ADA are to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities and to provide consistent, enforceable standards to address discrimination in the workplace.

REF: Page 86 | Page 87 TOP: AONE competency: Business Skills

5. A staff nurse who was fired for reporting patient abuse to the appropriate state agency files a whistleblower lawsuit against the former employer. Reasons that the court would use in upholding a valid whistleblower suit claiming retaliation include that the nurse:
a. Had previously reported the complaint, in writing, to hospital administration.
b. Had threatened to give full details of the patient abuse to local media sources.
c. Was discharged after three unsuccessful attempts at progressive discipline had failed.
d. Had organized, before filing the complaint, a work stoppage action by fellow employees.
An employer is unable to fire an employee who, in good faith, reports what is believed to be a violation of a law, rule, or state or federal law.

REF: Page 89 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

6. In keeping with standards of The Joint Commission (TJC), the nurse manager organizes an orientation for new staff members. As part of the orientation, the nurse manager reviews the employee handbook. Employers may be bound to statements in the employee handbook:
a. Under the doctrine of apparent agency.
b. Under the doctrine of respondeat agency.
c. Based on the employee’s or the employer’s expectations.
d. Based on the theory that the handbook creates an explicit contract.
The handbook is an implied contract and frames the employment contract.

REF: Page 89 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

7. To reduce the incidence of falls in a skilled nursing unit, the nurse manager contacts the risk manager. Risk management is a process that attempts to identify potential hazards and:
a. Compensate for previous injuries.
b. Eliminate these risks before anyone else is harmed.
c. Supersede the need for staff members to file incident reports.
d. Discipline staff members who have been involved in previous incident reports.
Risk management involves taking proactive steps to identify and eliminate risks and liability.

REF: Page 84 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

8. One means of ensuring that nurses floated to other patient care areas in healthcare organizations are qualified to work in those areas is:
a. Employing additional staff to assist with orientation processes.
b. Cross-educating staff members to other areas of the institution.
c. Transferring patients to units where the staffing pattern is optimal.
d. Orienting staff members to all patient care areas as part of their general orientation to the institution.
Nurses should be floated to units as similar as possible to their own to decrease the potential for liability. Negotiating cross-training, a proactive approach to temporary staffing problems, reduces the potential for liability.

REF: Page 80 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

9. A colleague asks you to give her your password access so that she can view her partner’s healthcare record. This request violates the patient’s right to:
a. Privacy.
b. Confidentiality.
c. Undue authorization of treatment.
d. Protection against slander.
Privacy refers to the right to protection against unreasonable and unwarranted interference with the patient’s solitude. Privacy standards limit how personal health information may be used or shared and mandate safeguards for the protection of health information. Institutions can reduce potential liability in this area by allowing access to patient data, either written or oral, only to those with a “need to know.” Persons with a need to know include physicians and nurses caring for the patient, technicians, unit clerks, therapists, social service workers, and patient advocates. Others wishing to access patient data must first ask the patient for permission to review a record.

REF: Page 83 | Page 84
TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

10. On your nursing unit, you employ LPNs, RNs, and advanced practice nurses. You will need to be familiar with at least:
a. Two nursing practice acts.
b. Two nursing practice acts in most states.
c. At least one nursing practice act.
d. One nursing practice act and a medical act.
In all states, you will need to be familiar with at least one nursing practice act. In some states, there may be two nursing practice acts if RNs and LPNs/LVNs come under different licensing boards.

REF: Page 71 | Page 72
TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

11. A nurse on your inpatient psychiatric unit is found to have made sexually explicit remarks toward a patient with a previous history of sexual abuse. The patient sues, claiming malpractice. Which of the following conditions may not apply in this situation?
a. Injury
b. Causation
c. Breach of duty
d. Breach of duty of care owed
By virtue of employment, the nurse owes a duty of care to the patient; this care has been breached by a nurse, who would be expected to know that this behavior violates usual standards of care. The resultant injury, the fifth malpractice element, must be physical, not merely psychological or transient. In other words, some physical harm must be incurred by the patient before malpractice will be found against the healthcare provider, which is not evident in this situation where the action did not involve physical harm.

REF: Page 73 | Page 74 | Page 92
TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

12. As a charge nurse, you counsel your RN staff member that he has satisfied his duty of care by notifying a child’s physician of his concerns about deterioration in the child’s status at 0330 hours. The physician does not come in. The child dies at 0630 hours. As the charge nurse, you could be held liable for:
a. Professional negligence.
b. Assault.
c. Avoidance.
d. Murder.
Professional negligence can be asserted when there is failure to do what a reasonable and prudent nurse would do in the same situation. In this situation, the charge nurse might have advocated further for the patient in light of the evident seriousness of the child’s condition.

REF: Page 72 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

13. The parents of a toddler who dies after being brought to the ER launch a lawsuit, claiming that the failure of nurses to pursue concerns related to their son’s deteriorating condition contributed to his death. The senior nurse executive is named in the suit:
a. As a global respondent.
b. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior.
c. As a frivolous action.
d. Under the element of causation.
Known as vicarious liability, the doctrine of respondeat superior makes employers accountable for the negligence of their employees, using the rationale that the employee could not have been in a position to have caused the wrongdoing unless hired by the employer.

REF: Page 75 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

14. During a staff shortage, you hire an RN from a temporary agency. The RN administers a wrong IV medication that results in cardiac arrest and a difficult recovery for the patient. Liability in this situation:
a. Is limited to the temporary agency.
b. Is restricted to the RN.
c. Could include the RN, the agency, and your institution.
d. May depend on the patient’s belief regarding the employment relationship.
Apparent agency may apply here because your liability and that of your institution could be established if it can be shown that the patient believes that the RN was an employee of yours and of your institution.

REF: Page 80 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

15. You volunteer at a free community clinic. A 13-year-old girl claims to have been diagnosed with SLE and presents with chlamydia. The team leader at the clinic advises that:
a. The state-defined age of legal consent is 18; therefore, no treatment can be delivered.
b. The teen is underage and should be referred to the family general practitioner.
c. Care can be provided as long as consent is voluntary and information about treatment and options is provided.
d. Treatment is provided as long as telephone consent is obtained from a parent or legal guardian.
All states have a legal age for consent; generally, this age is 18. However, emancipated minors, minors seeking treatment for substance abuse, and minors seeking treatment for communicable diseases can provide their own consent.

REF: Page 80 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

16. Three gravely ill patients are candidates for the only available bed in the ICU. As the supervisor, you assign the bed to the patient with the best chance of recovery. This decision reflects which of the following ethical principles?
a. Beneficence
b. Autonomy
c. Veracity
d. Nonmaleficence
Beneficence refers to doing what’s good for the patient; in this situation, doing what’s good means providing care to the patient with the best likelihood of recovery.

REF: Page 92 TOP: AONE competency: Professionalism

17. Which ethical principle is primarily involved in informed consent?
a. Veracity
b. Autonomy
c. Beneficence
d. Nonmaleficence
Autonomy refers to the right to choose freely, which is inherent in informed consent.

REF: Page 92 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

18. The principle that requires nurses to uphold a professional code of ethics, to practice within the code of ethics, and to remain competent is which of the following?
a. Veracity
b. Autonomy
c. Fidelity
d. Honesty
Fidelity refers to promise keeping or upholding one’s promise to practice as a reasonable and prudent nurse would do and in an ethically competent manner.

REF: Page 92 TOP: AONE competency: Professionalism

19. Mr. M. complains to you that one of your staff asked him details about his sexual relationships and financial affairs. He says that these questions were probing and unnecessary to his care, but he felt that if he refused to answer, the nurse would be angry with him and would not provide him with good care. Mr. M.’s statements reflect concern with:
a. Privacy.
b. Confidentiality.
c. Veracity.
d. Informed consent.
Privacy protection includes protection against unwarranted intrusion into the patient’s affairs.

REF: Page 83 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

20. To satisfy duty of care to a patient, a nurse manager is legally responsible for all of the following except:
a. Notifying staff of changes to policies related to medication administration.
b. Scheduling and staffing to ensure safe care.
c. Delegating in accordance with practice acts.
d. Supervising the practice of the physician.
Legally, the nurse manager is accountable to nursing practice standards, standards for nurse administrators, and hospital policies and procedures.

REF: Page 73 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

21. In a telehealth organization, a nurse who is licensed in New York and Pennsylvania provides teaching to a patient who resides in Pennsylvania. The patient charges that the teaching failed to provide significant information about a potential side effect, which led to delay in seeking treatment and untoward harm. Under which state nurse practice act and standards would this situation be considered?
a. New York
b. Pennsylvania
c. Neither New York nor Pennsylvania
d. Both New York and Pennsylvania
Under the law, the state in which the patient resides and not the state where the nurse holds his or her license determines the state nurse practice act that is considered.

REF: Page 72 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

22. A member of a patient’s family calls the nurse manager of the palliative care unit to express concern that a member of the family, who died on the weekend, had requested analgesics from the RNs on duty. An RN came with the analgesic nearly 45 minutes later, just after the patient had died. The manager is aware that the unit was especially busy that weekend because many patients were seriously ill, staff had called in ill, and the staffing manager was unable to completely replace staff who were absent. The manager is deeply troubled that the family member had to die in pain because it violates what she knows should have been done. This manager is experiencing:
a. Compromised agency.
b. Moral distress.
c. Moral sensitivity.
d. Moral dilemma.
Moral distress is experienced when nurses cannot provide what they perceive to be best for a given patient. Examples of moral distress include constraints caused by financial pressures, limited patient care resources, disagreements among family members regarding patient interventions, and/or limitations imposed by primary healthcare providers.

REF: Page 93 | Page 94 TOP: AONE competency: Professionalism

23. While walking past a patient’s room, you overhear one of the RN staff telling a patient that the patient has no right to refuse chemotherapy treatment because the family and the doctor think the treatment is the best option for the patient. This patient is 40 years of age and alert. When you meet later to discuss what you heard with the RN, it is important to:
a. Discuss how statute law enforces the right of the doctor, but not of families, to ensure that patients comply with recommended treatment plans.
b. Discuss that statute law provides for patient autonomy and refusal of treatment.
c. Remind the nurse to provide clearer explanations to aid in the patient’s comprehension of the treatment and compliance.
d. Acknowledge the nurse’s role in ensuring that she does not fail in her duty of care for the patient.
Statute law states that the patient must be given sufficient information, in terms he or she can reasonably be expected to comprehend, to make an informed choice. Inherent in the doctrine of informed consent is the right of the patient to informed refusal. Patients must clearly understand the possible consequences of their refusal.

REF: Page 81 TOP: AONE competency: Professionalism


1. One of your staff nurses asks for your advice because a patient refuses to sign a consent for surgery. The patient says that he won’t sign because he doesn’t understand the nature of the surgery. You advise that (select all that apply):
a. Consent must not be coerced.
b. The patient has a right to choose not to consent.
c. The patient must sign the consent because the doctor wants him to sign.
d. Witnessing a consent is related only to the voluntary nature of the signature.
ANS: A, B, D
Consent must be voluntary and not coerced; the patient must understand what he is signing, must have legal capacity, and must understand the consequences of refusal. Witnessing a consent means attesting to the voluntary nature of the patient’s signature.

REF: Page 81 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment

2. With regard to nursing practice, nurse managers are held responsible for (select all that apply):
a. Practicing within legal guidelines established under state law and nurse practice acts.
b. Ensuring that nursing staff under their supervision are currently licensed to practice.
c. Referring all errors in nursing judgment to state discipline boards.
d. Ensuring that physicians are properly licensed to provide care on patient care units.
Nurses are responsible for knowing and practicing under state law and nurse practice acts. Managers are responsible for monitoring staff practice and ensuring that staff hold current, valid licensure.

REF: Page 71 TOP: AONE competency: Knowledge of the Health Care Environment