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Patient Abandonment - Position Statement

The Board of Nursing has been asked to respond to inquiries for a position statement addressing the issue of "patient abandonment." The term "patient abandonment" is not defined in the Board's enabling legislation or in its regulations. However, patient abandonment issues are addressed by the Board of Nursing under "professional misconduct," one of the grounds for disciplinary action under the Uniform Enforcement Act (NJSA 45:1-21(e)). The Board considers each complaint based on individual circumstances and the facts of each situation as it pertains to the nurse who provides care as well as to the nurse supervisor/manager.

The Board only has the authority to take disciplinary action in specific cases based on its interpretation of what constitutes "professional misconduct." The Board's authority does not extend to employer-employee relationships such as staffing issues and mandatory overtime.

The Board encourages nurses and employers to be aware of the laws and regulations governing the practice of nursing in this State, including the grounds for discipline, and to report perceived violations of these laws and regulations to the Board. Conduct which is not actionable by the Board is most appropriately addressed by the employer or the nurse consistent with all applicable employment and labor laws, rules, and policies.

Both nurse managers/supervisors and nurses in direct patient care positions are accountable for providing safe nursing care to their patients. During crisis situations, periods of understaffing or limited numbers of well-qualified staff, it is essential that nurse managers/supervisors and nursing staff work within their respective roles to provide safe care to patients in a manner consistent with law. It is also paramount that nurse managers/supervisors and nursing staff strive to resolve conflicts in a constructive manner so that the best interests of patients are served.

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