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In medical malpractice cases,
expert testimony is often required to establish 2 of the 4 elements to prove negligence.
1. Duty/Standard of Care (expert testimony often required)
3. Causation (expert testimony often required)
With the growing roles of nurses in healthcare, it is more common than ever to need nurse expert witness.
This video provides and overview of the role a nurse expert plays in a medical malpractice case,
including testimony on standard of care and causation.
Admissibility and Competency of Nurse Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice Cases
This Research Guide will explain how to Qualify Nurse Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice lawsuits have been described as time consuming, expensive endeavors, and emotionally charged experiences. While it is true that “many lawsuits settle out of court, on terms agreed upon by both parties, with a payment of money by the physician’s insurance company,” “whether or not a medical malpractice action is settled or proceeds to court, the investment of time, money, and resources by the defendant physician, and the plaintiff’s attorney, is not trivial.” “Preparation and prosecution of a medical negligence lawsuit can cost more than $100,000.”
One aspect of medical malpractice suits that has come under scrutiny in recent decades is the role of medical expert testimony in malpractice litigation. While concerns about the credibility of medical expert testimony in malpractice litigation is nothing new, recognition of the essential role the expert witness plays in determining medical negligence under the U.S. system of jurisprudence dates back to the early nineteenth century. Today, medical expert testimony, with a few exceptions, is often required to establish a standard of care and causation for a prima facie case in negligence, and can be determinative of whether Plaintiff or Defendant wins their case. And so, regulation of admissibility of medical expert testimony and how to qualify a medical expert has become a major concern.
Significant to expert testimony in a “world of burgeoning malpractice suits,” is the role of expert testimony on the nursing standard of care. The US Department of Health and Human Services explains, “The health care workforce doesn't get any bigger than nurses. Three million strong, they're the largest group of clinicians in the country.” Registered Nurses are also the largest group of health care providers in the United States today. Nurses are central to many aspects of health care and clinical care including “quality measurement and improvement, case management, data collection for clinical trials, insurance coverage review, health and insurance hot lines, patient education classes, and many others.” The modern role of nursing “has changed significantly, although not beyond recognition, with modern nurses expected to process complex patient data, carry out research and keep at the cutting-edge of technological advances.” Nurses are most importantly a distinct profession, separate from the practice of medicine. They are no longer considered “junior doctors” or a mere “underlings” of the physician.
And so, it is surprising that while “plaintiffs, defendants, and the lawyers who represent them all recognize the critical role that nurses play in providing modern medical services,” most practitioners will question “whether even the most experienced nurse is qualified to offer a medical opinion in a court of law.”
The following research guide is a review of secondary sources, recent legislation, and cases and more explaining how to qualify nurse expert testimony in medical malpractice cases.
 B. Sonny Bal, An Introduction to Medical Malpractice in the United States, Clin Orthop Relat Res. (Nove. 26, 2008), http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2628513/
 See Malpractice and medical Evidence, supra note 1, at 264.
 Kathleen M. Scanlan, Nurse and Malpractice: Legal Problems in the Nursing Profession, w. st. u. l. rev. 277, (1981-1982).
 Beth Collins Sharp, the changing Role of Nurses, u. s. department of health and human services no. 388 (2012), http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/12dec/1212RA.pdf
 Scanlan, supra note 5.
 Chris Glynn-Jones, The role of nursing has changed considerably, Wales Online, (June 11, 2013, 12:15), http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health/how-role-nursing-changed-4292324
 Scanlan, supra note 5.
 Christian H. Staples, 53 No. 10 DRI For Def. 25
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