What Malpractice Risks Do GI Nurses Face?

March 19, 2021 •

Gastroenterology nurses are being granted more and more autonomy in their nursing every day. Some GI nurses can perform endoscopies and Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT). With great responsibility also comes greater risk. It’s important for every GI nurse to understand their scope and standards of practice to avoid any negligent occurrences that can potentially cause a patient harm and lead to a medical malpractice in nursing case.

What Is Considered Malpractice in GI Nursing?

The number of nurses being named in medical malpractice cases increases every year. Medical malpractice in nursing occurs when a nurse fails to completely and competently administer his or her nursing care which causes harm to the patient.


The definition for negligence is failure to take proper care of something. The main categories in GI nursing negligence include:

  • Failure to adhere to standards of care
  • Failure to use equipment in a professional manner
  • Failure to use proper communication
  • Failure to appropriately document
  • Failure to assess and monitor the patient
  • Failure to act as a patient advocate

The largest number of reported cases of negligence were found to occur in acute care hospitals at a rate of 60%.

Potential Complications with Conscious Sedation

Conscious sedation, also known as continuum depth sedation, is used to sedate patients undergoing colonoscopies and endoscopies. The patient is placed under minimal sedation with reflexes of the protective airway intact. Potential complications related to conscious sedation can arise which can lead to negligence. All units where endoscopies are performed should have policies outlining the use of sedation guidelines as well as the role of the GI nurse in the management of those patients as outlined by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) and SGNA.

A case example of negligence on the part of a GI nurse would be allowing a patient to drive themselves home after an endoscopy which they received conscious sedation. If the patient were to get into an accident and die, the family can bring a lawsuit against the nurse. It’s important for GI nurses not to discharge a patient home without a driver. The nurse has a duty to warn the patient not to drive home. If the patient is refusing the instructions, then the nurse can call 911 and warn them of an impaired driver.

Documentation is Key

Sometimes things can go wrong during endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures on the GI unit. Errors can range from patient issues, procedure related factors, nursing staff incompetence, and equipment malfunction. The act of negligence due to nurse error can be decreased by implementing an endoscopy safety checklist. Proper documentation along with understanding the potential for error will help to ensure patient safety.

The nurse has a duty to educate the patient on procedural steps and the risks involved. If a patient recognizes inappropriate care, they should feel comfortable discussing any issues or fears with the nurse. By listening attentively and addressing concerns, the nurse may reduce the possibility of a lawsuit later on.

What If You Get Sued?

As outlined above, detailed documentation is key to avoiding negligence and a possible malpractice case. If you find yourself facing a lawsuit, your insurance provider can walk you through handling the case and provide legal experts to represent you.

Even if the hospital or agency you are employed with provides some malpractice coverage, it is always advised to have your own policy to ensure your own interests are top priority from your insurance company. You want to ensure adequate coverage in order to secure ample protection so that your rights are acknowledged.

NOW Insurance has over 20 years’ experience providing insurance and processing claims for nurses and nurse practitioners. We provide simple, fast and affordable insurance, and experts to walk you through every step of a claim if one arises. Our insurance is tailored to your unique situation, so you pay for exactly the amount of insurance you need.

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