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Hostile Work Environment Definition

Do Nurses in a Hostile Work Environment Have a Duty to Second Guess the Doctor?

When a patient sues a doctor, the patient often wants to sue the nurses too. Why? Because if the patient can convince the jury that not only the doctor, but also the nurses, made a mistake then the doctor’s insurance and the hospital’s insurance are on the hook. It’s about finding as many deep-pockets as possible.

Often times, the nurses didn’t make any mistakes. The nurses are supposed to follow the orders given by the doctor. And they usually do. So how can a patient and his/her lawyer sue a nurse who simply followed doctor’s orders?

One of the most frequent tactics is by claiming that the nurse failed because the nurse followed the doctor’s orders. That’s right, the patient argues that the nurse should NOT have followed orders, but instead should have spoken up to stop the doctor from making the mistake.

The people who sit on juries and hear malpractice lawsuits believe this argument. If a jury can second guess how a doctor handled a patient, then shouldn’t nurses be able to second guess the doctor too?

A survey by a jury consulting company asked over 1,000 potential jurors from across the county if nurses have a legal duty to speak up if they disagree with a doctor’s treatment decision. A stunning 84% of jurors said “Yes! Nurses have a legal duty to second guess a doctor’s decision.”


Many nurses visit this site and have bought my e-book “Work Laws Exposed,” because they feel harassed and intimidated by doctors, whose strident arrogance creates a hostile work environment. Numerous nurses tell me stories of cowering when a certain doctor stalks into a room, just looking for someone to yell at.

In this kind of setting, is there really any way that nurses should held legally liable for doing their job and following the treatment protocols chosen by the doctor in charge?

Ironically, in the same survey asked potential jurors why they believed nurses didn’t speak up more often. Here’s the ironic part, the survey respondents said that nurses don’t speak up more because doctors are so arrogant that they wouldn’t listen to anything a nurse suggests. Well duh!

Despite that, jurors are being convinced by malpractice lawyers that nurses have a legal duty to speak up — not just in extreme circumstances such as when a doctor reports to work drunk, but even on more mundane issues, like whether or not to have a test run on a patient or certain lab workups done.

Nurses are extraordinary public servants who deserve to practice their trade free of a hostile work environment. Regardless of whether you feel nurses have a legal duty to speak up on every treatment decision, we can all agree that nurses should feel free to speak up without fear of being yelled at or demeaned by their boss, the doctor. We at UCL and the surveyed jurors agree that a hostility free workplace is not what most nurses have now.

What do you think? Should nurses speak up if they disagree with the doctor’s treatment decisions? Regardless of where you work, have you ever spoken up when you disagreed with your boss’s decision? How did your boss react?

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