Legal Issues Concerning Nursing Assistants

With any type of professional license, there are certain legal responsibilities. As a working CNA you should be cognizant of potential legal liabilities that you may be exposed to throughout your career. If you fail to meet the proper medical standards, there could be significant consequences.

It’s up to you to be familiar with local, state and federal laws relevant to your scope of duty as a CNA. Failure to abide by these laws can result in a civil suit against you, possible loss of certification and in extreme cases may result in fines or imprisonment.

Now that I have your attention, let’s explore some basic guidelines that will help you stay out of the legal hot seat.

Patients Right to Privacy

In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was enacted to protect the confidentiality of patients. As a nursing assistant, you are responsible for safeguarding the privacy of patients. Medical issues should only be discussed with the patient’s doctor, nursing staff, other members of the medical team and close relatives.

Know Your Facility’s Policies

It’s essential that you perform your duties by following the correct procedures of your place of employment and within the scope of your training. If you are unsure about a certain policy or procedure, always check with your immediate supervisor.

Continuing Education

Keep up to date on continuing education requirements to provide the highest level of care to your patients. This will also allow you to stay informed about any new or changing medical cna

Legal Issues

In addition to the previously mentioned guidelines, there are a variety of legal terms that every CNA should be acquainted with. Be aware of the following legal issues and know how to avoid them during your career.


This involves negligent conduct that results in harm to the patient. Examples include practicing outside the scope of your duties, not providing care as previously trained and failing to follow your facility’s policies.


This consists of the lack of reasonable care due to carelessness and often results in injury or harm to the patient. Negligence usually occurs when a CNA is in a hurry.

Types of Patient Abuse

There are four types of abuse that have been identified within the medical community. They consist of physical, sexual, psychological and verbal abuse.


Examples include hitting, kicking and roughhousing with patients. Another form of physical abuse involves providing the incorrect treatment to patients.


This can involve any type of seductive or sexual harassing behavior directed toward the patient. Another form of sexual abuse is forcing a patient to do a sexual act against their will.


This type of abuse includes patient intimidation through threats or any other harassing behavior that would cause emotional harm to the patient.


This includes the inappropriate use of tone and language as well as any unpleasant gestures or names directed toward patients.

Property Rights

All patients have the right to have their personal items safeguarded during their stay in any healthcare facility. Theft of a patient’s property is nothing less than a crime.

Assault and Battery

Assault is defined as intentionally attempting to harm someone; battery involves actually committing the offense. In a medical environment, these terms don’t always involve attacking someone. Simply performing a treatment against the patient’s will could cause significant legal problems.

To avoid this situation, always inform patients of what treatment you plan to perform, and immediately stop if the patient refuses.

This is known as informed consent. Conversely, forcing the patient to do something against their will is defined as coercion. If the patient refuses treatment at any time, notify your supervising nurse.

False Imprisonment and Involuntary Seclusion

Patients have the right to come and go as they please. You must obtain proper authorization before restricting any movement. Additionally, the use of physical restraints must be specifically ordered by a doctor prior to being utilized on any patient.

When a patient is held against their will, it’s known as involuntary seclusion. Sometimes patients become unruly and can cause problems in common areas that are shared by other patients. Check with your supervisor before removing these patients.


Your goal as a CNA is to provide the highest level of care to your patients. By following these guidelines and the proper legal standards, you are ensuring that you’re doing both you and your patients justice throughout your career.

One Response to Legal Issues Concerning Nursing Assistants

  1. Lisa April 11, 2013 at 1:48 am #

    I had a of my family members she worked in a nursing home and was transporting the patient to her room to get her ready for she was going through the doorway she thought the wheelchair hit the door so she backed up and attempted to go through again same thing happened again something was hitting the door way preventing her from going through..she realized it was the patients leg hitting the door way…she got into the room and noticed that the patients leg was bleeding immediately reported this to the nurse the nurse bandaged her up and the night continued on…later on when she was doing her rounds she noticed that the patient was still bleeding so she reported it to the nurse and the nurse again re dressed the wound…a little back ground info is that this particular patient is prone to skin tears and this is well documented in her chart..anyways this happened on the 3-11 pm shift when the 7-3 shift got in in the morning they felt that she needed stitches and she got them…the patients family are one of those angry families and nothing is good they complained and threatened law suits etc..anyways i guess to appease the family she was fired and accused of patient abuse..she is fighting this has hearings scheduled etc. the incident was caught on video tape so you can see exactly what happened and hopefully a positive outcome will happen when they go to court…so my question is if things dont go her way and the worst happens and she is convicted of abuse can she still work as a CNA? Does she lose her license? she is afraid to get a job and then have to quit it if this she is going to lose her cna now she sits at home with no unemployment and has not gotten another job..hope someone can answer this question…thank you

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