Legal Concepts Nurses Should Know

On top of mastering the hundreds of nursing terms and abbreviations, it’s equally important to learn certain legal concepts as a new RN. I know what you’re thinking: “hey, I went to nursing school not law school.” However, you’d be surprised how many legal implications there are for nurses that affect everyday care. While you may be familiar with a few of them, here’s a crash course in the legal concepts nurses should know.

Confidentiality and HIPAA

Patient confidentiality is one of the most referenced legal concepts nurses should know. HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, went into effect in 1996 in an effort to standardize electronic health transactions and give patients greater control over their health information (via Beyond the HIPAA Privacy Rule). Throughout the course of the nurse-patient relationship, nurses become privy to vast amounts of patients’ health data. As outlined in the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses, all nurses are responsible for safeguarding this data and maintaining patient confidentiality. Sharing patient information with unauthorized individuals, whether via email, social media, or through casual conversation, violates HIPAA and can result in serious consequences for the liable party.

Negligence and Malpractice


As the name suggests, nursing negligence occurs when a patient experiences unintended harm due to a nurse’s mistake or omission in care (via This can refer to: failing to properly monitor a patient and missing a change in their vital signs, incorrect administration of medication, or not noticing a drug reaction or allergy on a patient’s chart.


Malpractice and negligence are similar terms that are often used interchangeably but have one important difference. While negligence refers to an unintentional failure to provide care, malpractice is considered intentional. Nursing malpractice occurs when a nurse knowingly and willfully does not follow the proper standard of care and the patient experiences harm as a result. For example, administering the wrong medication or wrong amount of medication, not feeding a patient, not notifying the provider about crucial patient information, or charting false information about the patient’s status.

An RN can be held liable for negligence and malpractice when their actions result in serious outcomes like injury or death of a patient, which is why it is among the most important legal concepts nurses should know about before starting their careers.

Mandatory Reporting

Nurses have the status of mandated reporters, which means that when they witness abuse or neglect, they must report it through the appropriate channels. Vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and victims of abuse are often unable to independently seek help, and count on nurses for assistance. Whether a nurse notices signs of abuse in a patient, or a patient divulges that they have been abused, the nurse is required to report it to law enforcement. To read more about mandatory reporting and to see your state’s mandatory reporting laws, check out this resource via


Although you may think of a fist fight or beating when you hear the word “battery,” its legal definition in relation to nursing is quite different. Battery is defined as “touching someone without their consent” according to  This is why nurses should always ask for consent before proceeding with any physical touching associated with patient care. Patients reserve the right to deny any physical interaction or treatment by a healthcare provider. Battery is one of the legal concepts nurses should know because if a clinician touches a patient without their proper consent, it can sometimes result in a battery allegation.

Invasion of Privacy

The legal definition of “Invasion of Privacy” is: the intrusion into the personal life of another, without just cause (via Hospitals are busy places, and in the course of routine procedure, many patients have their privacy violated. Examples of invasions of privacy may include sharing the results of a test in front of family members or other patients without permission, leaving digital health records open for non-medical personnel to access, or gossiping about a patient’s health condition on social media. It is crucial to remember invasion of privacy when talking about work with your friends who are outside the medical profession because you never know when divulging patient information, even in the most casual of conversation, can result in a lawsuit.

Consequences of Breaking the Law in Nursing

These legal concepts nurses should know are invaluable because you can face serious consequences as a result of breaking the law on the job. While the implications vary widely based on the accusations, nurses may face the following:

  • Loss of trust by patients, colleagues, and employers
  • Unpaid leave from work
  • Demotion
  • Job termination
  • Criminal charges
  • Heavy fines or penalties
  • Loss of any specialized board credentials and certifications
  • Cancellation of licensure on a temporary or permanent basis
  • Jail time

Going into your shift each day with a heightened awareness of the legal responsibilities of being a nurse is a great way to elevate your level of patient care and performance as an RN. These legal concepts are reminders of the ethical and moral weight being a nurse carries, and how much rides on following the law.

Common Nursing Terms & Abbreviations: A Guide for New Nurses

You’ve waited for this moment for years: finally getting your very first hospital job after nursing school. While many new nurses are feeling on top of their game after completing all the requirements of their certification, that first day on the job can be overwhelming, especially when all the veteran nurses are shooting around phrases and words you don’t know or don’t recall from your textbooks. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. For a refresher on common nursing terms, check out this list and be ready to tackle that assignment like you’ve been on the job for years.

Code Blue

“Code blue” is one of the most important common nursing terms that a new RN should know. When you hear “code blue” on the hospital floor, it means that a patient is experiencing an unexpected cardiac or respiratory arrest, requiring rescue and resuscitation measures. It is a hospital-wide alert, so chances are you will unfortunately hear more than a few “code blues” in your time as a nurse.


Pronounced “peeds,” this is nursing shorthand for the pediatric unit of a hospital.


Standard operating procedures.

Crash Cart

A “crash cart” is a mobile shelving unit used in hospitals for transporting and dispensing emergency medication and equipment. “Crash cart” is one of the most common nursing terms since there is no other or “official” name for it. This is extremely important for a new nurse to know because crash carts contain life-saving tools that are essential in any unit.


“Tachy” refers to tachycardia, or rapid heart rate. Tachycardia can sometimes indicate serious illness in a patient.


Nocs,” or “nocts,” (short for nocturnal) is one of the most common nursing terms you will hear as you start your career. The “noc” shift refers to the night shift, which in most hospitals is 7 PM to 7:30 AM or 6 PM to 6:30 AM. Before taking your first noc shift, check out these tips for adjusting to working nights.




Vital signs of a patient. These include body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure.


ADRs stand for adverse drug reactions. It is super important to know if your patient has any ADRs listed in their chart before treating them.


In nursing, a “hat” is not something you want to wear on your head. A hat is a device that fits into the patient’s toilet to collect samples to screen for cancers or other illnesses.


The term “sundowning” refers to a patient’s state of confusion or disorientation occurring in the late afternoon and lasting into the night. Sundowning in patients is often caused by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. If you notice a patient getting confused, anxious, or agitated at night after seeming normal all day, they may be sundowning. Sundowning can also lead to pacing or wandering.

Ready to jumpstart your nursing career? Apply with Premier!

6 Tech Must-Haves for Nurses

While many of the classic nursing essentials (stethoscope, bandages, etc.) have been around for over a hundred years, there is a new generation of gadgets out there —and they make nurses’ lives much easier. These tech must-haves for nurses are here to assist you both on your shift and at home and can make even the most hectic days on the job that much easier.

1. Theragun Massager

A good muscle massager like the Theragun will help you recover faster after long days on your feet running around your unit. The Theragun is especially useful for nurses who exercise regularly and want to avoid being sore at work. Try the Theragun Mini, a portable version of the regular Theragun, to keep in your nursing bag or backpack so you can always have access to sweet muscle relief on the go.

tech must-haves for nurses

2. Smart Watch

Lots of clinicians swear by their smart watches, which is why they are among the top tech must-haves for nurses. Whether you want to check your heartrate, read texts, count your steps, or even schedule appointments, you can do it all from your wrist with a smart watch. This is extremely handy for nurses since smartphone access may be limited to break time, depending on your unit. Check out an Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch to see what all the hype is about.

3. Amazon Blink Camera

Whether you’re concerned about home protection or just want to check to see what your pet is up to, a mini security camera is a great tool for nurses to have peace of mind while working a long shift. The Amazon Blink Mini is a budget-friendly USB camera that you can place anywhere inside or outside your house to monitor activity on your smartphone. It’s among the top tech must-haves for nurses because it is so easy to set up, and even has a two-way audio system so you can project your voice from the camera remotely (I use it to say hi to my puppy while I’m at work). This is a great feature for travel nurses with pets. See how it works with a tutorial on YouTube and see pricing on Amazon.

This is how I watch my puppy, Stanley, via the Blink Mini.

4. Coffee Mug Warmer

Many clinicians find it difficult to get through a long shift without their reliable cup of joe. However, nurses are always getting called away to deal with one thing or another, and often come back to the break room only to find that their cup of coffee has gone cold. This mug-warming coaster can help solve this age-old problem. This electric disk plugs into an outlet or USB port on a computer and emits just enough heat to keep your coffee (or tea) at the perfect temperature.


5. UV Light Smartphone Sanitizer

Even if you can’t use your phone during your shift, do you still feel like it’s bringing hospital germs back to your house? Turns out, your scrubs aren’t the only things you need to disinfect upon returning from your shift. Did you know that the average smartphone is 10 times dirtier than a public toilet seat? Simply wiping the device down with a wet cloth isn’t always going to cut it, especially since clinical settings expose your phone to a lot of germs. If you’d like to give your phone a more thorough cleaning, consider getting the PhoneSoap smartphone sanitizer, one of the most logical tech must-haves for nurses. This simple device uses ultraviolet light to clean the phone as it charges. Plus, it’s portable enough to bring anywhere you go. Your immune system will thank you!

6. Tracking Tiles

As a nurse, you have a lot of things to remember at all times and it’s easy to misplace your phone, keys, or wallet during times of stress (especially if you’re adjusting to a new sleep schedule). If you’re constantly losing essentials, you should consider getting a set of GPS tracking tiles to attach to them. These devices hook onto keys and bags and slide into wallets so that important items will never go missing again. If you can’t find something, open the related smartphone app and activate the tracker, which will cause the item to beep until you can locate it.

Why Cultural Competence is Important in Healthcare

Cultural competence is growing a focus in all industries including healthcare. The American Hospital Association (AHA) defines a culturally competent healthcare system as one that “acknowledges the importance of culture, incorporates the assessment of cross-cultural relations, recognizes the potential impact of cultural differences, expands cultural knowledge, and adapts services to meet culturally unique needs.” Cultural competence is so important in healthcare settings because it aims to reduce racial, economic, ethnic, and social disparities when meeting a community’s health care needs.

How can I develop cultural competence as a nurse?

Developing a culturally competent healthcare environment starts with awareness of your own cultural background and experiences. No matter what your upbringing looked like, we all carry certain biases based on our cultural backgrounds. As a nurse, it is important to limit the influence of these biases when interacting with patients whose identities and life experiences differ from your own.

Beyond this starting point, cultural competence requires an understanding of and respect for other cultures. It is important to educate yourself and be open to learning patient’s backgrounds to effectively meet their care needs. For example, learning about a Muslim patient’s prayer schedule and planning infusions around their prayer times will allow them to feel seen and supported during their hospital stay.

cultural competence in healthcare

Focusing on Patients’ Cultural Needs

The American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics states that nurses must “practice with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person.” The only way to treat all patients with compassion and dignity is by understanding their cultures and responding appropriately to their needs. Unfortunately, this often does not happen in practice. The following three examples from a Regis College blog post demonstrate how a lack of cultural understanding may add to a patient’s stress:

● A Native American man tells emergency room staff he is following the “old ways” of dying and asks that his family be around him. Instead, he is transferred to an intensive care unit (ICU) hundreds of miles away for the extensive treatment he did not want, and his family cannot join him. He dies two weeks later, after being resuscitated twice, and his wife is the only family member with him.
● A Chinese patient admitted to the ICU after heart surgery asks the medical staff to allow his wife to cook a therapeutic meal for him that contains special herbs and that only his wife knew how to make. His nurses did not understand his initial request, after which he stopped asking because he was afraid of how they might view him.
● A newborn is too ill to be discharged with his Vietnamese mother, and the nursing staff becomes concerned that the mother appears not to be bonding with her new baby. A specialist in transcultural nursing care explains to the staff that in rural Vietnam, many people believe spirits are attracted to and may harm newborns, so they try not to draw attention to babies. What had seemed to the staff as uncaring was in fact a reflection of the mother’s love for her child.

Important Skills for Cultural Competence

Nurses with strong leadership and communication skills are needed to successfully implement cultural competence in healthcare settings and avoid these situations. Addressing the needs of underserved communities requires that nurses recognize and adapt to the social, ethnic, and linguistic needs of the people in these communities. This includes:
● Participating in lifelong learning to understand the cultural preferences, worldview, choices, and decision-making processes of patients.
● Communicating with appropriate language and behaviors, including the use of medical interpreters and translators.
● Educating fellow nurses and colleagues about cultural similarities and differences patients, families, groups, communities, and populations.

Cultural Competence Beyond Healthcare Settings

RNs are on the front lines of integrating cultural competence not only in healthcare settings, but also in their communities. Nurses have the opportunity to promote cultural competence principles in their communities through initiatives to improve healthcare access and equity (defined below) for vulnerable groups. Informed by their work in hospitals and clinics, many RNs are invested in the uplift of marginalized groups. Culturally competent nurses are the key to making change at the ground floor, which is why they are becoming increasingly important in the healthcare world and beyond.

Finding Financial Freedom Through Travel Nursing

While travel nursing is a career with many benefits, it is often very busy and can leave clinicians with little down-time. As a result, travel RNs often find themselves scrambling when it comes to finding time to manage their personal finances or think about long-term financial stability. As precious as free time is, it’s important for travel nurses to take time to focus on their finances. To help, we’ve consulted with Andrew N., a travel nurse with Premier Medical Staffing Services,  about how he was able to achieve his money goals.

How to Achieve Financial Freedom Through Travel Nursing

What budgeting tips would you recommend to travel nurses who may want to save up for a large purchase, pay off loans, etc.?

First and foremost, anyone wanting financial freedom needs to set up a budget and stick to it. Travel Nursing just fast tracks that whole process. Also, paying off debt before increasing your savings or saving up for a large purchase should be your priority. Anytime you’re in debt you are losing money to the lender. Dave Ramsey’s steps to financial freedom are what I used to get started in the right direction. He helped create a budgeting app called EveryDollar that I used, and it’s incredibly easy.

financial freedom, travel nursing, budgeting for nurses, financial freedom through travel nursing

Tell us a little bit about how you were able to pay off your car and your student loans. How was travel nursing able to help you achieve that milestone?

Over the course of 6 months, I paid off $69K in loans between my student loans, and my truck I purchased in Jan ‘20. I maintained a small enough savings that I had a safety net if I needed it, made a budget for my monthly bills/entertainment money, and then the excess went to debt repayment. Travel Nursing really put me on the fast track to being debt free because I was able to allocate $3K/wk to rent payments. Using Dave Ramsey’s snowball technique, I paid off my smallest loans first while maintaining minimum payments on the larger loans. Each time I paid off a loan, all the money allocated towards that smaller loan got added on top of the minimum payment for the next smallest loan.

financial freedom, travel nursing, budgeting for nurses, financial freedom through travel nursing

What are other money goals you hope to achieve in your nursing career?

With the help of travel nursing, I’m working towards investing in ways to earn passive income. Currently I have two avenues of passive income I’m looking at. I am already invested into mining cryptocurrency, and I’m looking to buy some rental properties that I can rent out for monthly income. Lastly, I hired a financial advisor to help me save towards retirement. Under his direction, I’m hoping to be able to retire early.

financial freedom, travel nursing, budgeting for nurses, financial freedom through travel nursing

More resources to help you reach your financial goals while travel nursing:

Investopedia’s Ultimate Guide to Financial Literacy

Ramsey Solutions: How to Get Out of Debt With the Debt Snowball Plan