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June 2012, Volume 42 Number 6 , p 12 - 13


  • Penny Simpson Brooke JD, MS, APRN


I'm a home health nurse who's developed a rapport with an older adult client who's mostly housebound. Her family lives out of town. Recently, one of her grown children asked if I'd take her mother on outings in my car sometimes. I'd be happy to-I'd enjoy it myself-but I'm worried about the legal consequences of using my own car. Should I say no?-P.R., KY.Transporting a patient in your own car is risky, and most home healthcare agencies forbid it. If your patient were injured in a crash, you and the agency could both be liable. You need to discuss this request with your supervisor and agency administration. The agency probably has a policy prohibiting staff from transporting patients, especially when the outing isn't part of the patient's care plan.If agency policy prevents you from agreeing to the request, you might want to find out if agency policy prohibits you from seeing the patient outside the scope of your employment. If not, would the family be willing to hire you as a private duty nurse for these activities?In that case, you'd need to consider your personal liability. Do you have personal professional liability insurance coverage? If so, does your insurance cover the activities you're planning? What would it cover if the patient has a medical emergency while you're on an outing? Also explore whether the arrangement would create any issues with your auto insurance. Discuss all these concerns with your insurance carriers.If you decide to proceed, you need to obtain signed documents from the patient and all members of the family to formalize the request and authorize you to transport the patient. Make sure the patient and family members sign a waiver of liability and permission forms for your protection and as evidence of your agreement. Keep in mind, though, that even with a waiver of liability, the family could still successfully sue you for negligence if the facts support negligent behavior on your part.Last but not least, as a professional nurse, consider the

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