Nurse Practice During a Pandemic
Liability for Safe Care During a Pandemic
Many nurses have questions about whether the Minnesota Board of Nursing has eased up on its expectations for care or actions against nurses while we are in the middle of this pandemic. As of the publication of this newsletter, The Minnesota Board of Nursing has not made any statements about changes to licensed nurses’ responsibilities or standards of care in Minnesota. Nurses are responsible to give safe care. The standards you are expected to meet during a non-pandemic time are the same as during a pandemic. Please reference Minnesota Nurse Practice Act Statute 148.171 Subd. 15 clause 17. To learn more about the Minnesota Nurse Practice Act, please refer to MNA’s Education Calendar for Nurse Practice Act class dates and times.
Nurses who are concerned about an unsafe staffing situation at their facility should report it to their supervisor/manager/administrator and complete MNA’s Concern for Safe Staffing at: https://mnnurses.org/concern-for-safe-staffing/. Supervisory and Administrative nurses can be reported to the Minnesota Board of Nursing if their actions or inactions place patients at risk. For more information, contact your facility Chairs or the MNA Practice Department.
It is advised that all nurses carry professional liability insurance, especially now in the environment of limited resources and this pandemic. There are many coverage plans and policies available that offer good protection for little expense. Please research and consider choosing a plan.
Minnesota Statute 181.275 Regulating Nurses’ Overtime defines that an employer is prohibited from taking action against a nurse for refusal to work overtime when, in that nurses’ judgment, patient safety would be at risk. However, the statute includes an exception for times of “emergency.” MNA believes that the state of emergency exception is meant for unforeseeable and unexpected emergencies. A global pandemic that is in its ninth month is foreseeable and expected, and it is the employers’ responsibility to plan for that. If your employer mandates that you work overtime and you believe it would be unsafe to do so, you should advocate for yourself and your patients and contact your Chairpersons.
Responding to Unsafe Assignments/Responsibility
Nurses have a duty to deliver safe care and should decline additional patients if patient safety would be at risk. As noted above, you and only you are responsible to deliver safe care. No one else can determine what is safe for you. For employment protection, you should not be insubordinate, do not refuse to work, but rather decline tasks and assignments or parts of assignments that put the patients at risk as well as your nursing license. The MN Board of Nursing expects that you provide safe care and will hold you responsible to do so. Please visit the MNA Education Calendar to learn more at one of our Responding to Unsafe Assignment classes.
Returning to Work After High-Risk Exposure
If you have a high-risk exposure to COVID-19, the Minnesota Department of Health recommends that you quarantine for 14 days. If your employer requests that you return to work during quarantine, you have a right not to. It is your right to make the choice to return to work.
Under Minnesota Rule 144.4196, your employer cannot discharge, discipline, threaten, or penalize you, or otherwise discriminate against the work terms, conditions, location, or employee privileges because you have been in isolation or quarantine. The same is true even if you are not in quarantine, but are caring for a minor or a disabled or vulnerable adult who is in isolation or quarantine.
If your employer violates the Rule, you may bring civil action for recovery of lost wages or benefits, for reinstatement, or for other relief (within certain timeframes).
Notify your Chairs if you are being harassed, intimidated, or told you must return to work during the exclusion period.