Legal services for NSWNA members

The NSWNA is on hand to provide important legal services to members.

Justice Patricia Staunton’s speech at this year’s annual conference reminded us how important the law is for nurses.

‘Nobody begins their nursing career expecting to appear before a court or tribunal, but the reality is that many nurses do. In most cases it is not because of personal misconduct, but simply because a nurse has been witness to a critical incident in which a patient has died or been seriously injured,’ said NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes.

Nurses care for people when they are at their most vulnerable, and critical incidents are as commonplace in many wards and workplaces as medication trolleys and vital signs machines. They are a part of the job. Sometimes, though, they can turn the vulnerability stakes around, and nurses can find themselves thrown into an unfamiliar world of lawyers, tribunals and judges.

‘The NSWNA has a full-time team of legal officers who represent and help members in Coronial Inquiries, Health Care Complaints Commission Inquiries and in the NSW Nurses and Midwives Board. The NSWNA is here to help nurses when they are at their most vulnerable,’ said Brett.

NSWNA legal officers guide hundreds of nurses through unfamiliar legal terrain, but for every nurse who finds themselves in the uncomfortable chair of a court room, there are many more who attend seminars or access the Association’s other, less visible legal services. Every time a nurse or midwife needs advice or clarification about an issue, there is somebody at the NSWNA who can provide answers and advice.

‘Members are always coming to us with valid questions about their legal and professional concerns, like whether or not it is acceptable to receive money from a grateful patient, or what they should do if they suspect a senior nurse or doctor has done something wrong, or failed to do something that the member thinks is important,’ said Brett.

The NSWNA believes prevention is the best cure, which is why the Association organises dozens of seminars and conferences each year on legal and professional issues and co-produces resources and videos to educate nurses about the law. Members can find information about legal seminars in The Lamp, or on the Association’s website. In the coming months, the NSWNA will also be releasing and promoting a new video series, Law for Nurses and Midwives, which will be an additional educational tool for Australian nurses.

Law for Nurses and Midwives

The NSWNA is producing Law for Nurses and Midwives in conjunction with Patricia Staunton. The series will comprise seven chapters across five DVDs, and will explore and explain the Australian legal system, professional negligence, standards of care, compensation, professional misconduct, patient record taking and the importance of communication.

In addition to Patricia Staunton’s contributions, the series will also include insights from Joan Englert, who was President of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Board from 1990 to 2004, lawyer and barrister Yvonne Grant, and Bret Walker SC, who was President of the NSW Bar Association between 2001 and 2003 and is one of Australia’s leading barristers.