Your nurse witness can be your best witness — here’s how.

A well-prepared nurse witness can help win your case.

Consider this all-too-common scenario in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and rehabilitation centers: despite quality care, a patient develops a decubitus ulcer and sues. And, even though the nurses charted appropriate care, the plaintiffs want to depose them first. Why? They hope the nurses will give the most useful (i.e., damaging) testimony.

Unfortunately, that expectation often turns out to be true. Many of the qualities of a “good nurse” are also what make them vulnerable deponents:

  • Nurses are taught, “if it isn’t written, it didn’t happen,” and equate lack of documentation with inadequate care;
  • Nurses often believe any deviation from “protocol” is negligence;
  • Nurses are trained to educate patients and often volunteer too much information, providing the plaintiffs‘ lawyer with extra “ammunition”;
  • Nurses are generally uncomfortable with having to defend their care; and
  • Nurses are inclined to be advocates for patients first and foremost.

Given their disparate training and care roles, preparing a nurse to be a witness can be very different than preparing a physician. But with the right coaching, a nurse witness can be an asset to your case. We utilize several strategies in preparing our nurse witnesses for deposition:

  • Avoid under-preparation of a nurse witness even if he or she is not the target provider. Nurses need ample training to discuss their care and learn “best practices” for deposition;
  • Provide emotional support and establish trust: Nurses are sometimes worried this process can impact their career, finances, or license. It is important to address and, hopefully alleviate, these concerns; and
  • Define the standard of care. Nurses sometimes expect perfection, and believe that a bad outcome, a missing chart entry, or a deviation from protocol are all breaches in the standard of care. Educate your nurse on the “reasonableness” standard.

All of this takes time, but it is well worth the effort when your nurse does well at deposition!

Bottom Line: Remember, nurses can help your case; they often just require a different approach. That’s our prescription!

If you have any questions about preparing a nurse for deposition, please contact us. We’re here to help.

Michelle Dian

Michelle Dian

Michelle L. Dian is a trial attorney and associate at Waranch & Brown. Since joining the Firm in 2014, Ms. Dian has gained considerable experience defending medical malpractice cases, as well as representing physicians and other health care providers in professional licensing and guardianship matters. She has successfully tried cases in the District and Circuit Courts of Maryland.