Most Common Legal Issues for CNAs Today

Most Common Legal Issues for CNAs Today

Just as with other professionals in healthcare settings, there are a variety of legal issues that nursing assistants need to be aware of before obtaining employment as CNAs. While some of the issues may seem like common sense to most people, it is always smart to review them carefully to avoid any legal or ethical implications.

While attending your CNA program, you will learn the CNA code of ethics. This code will help you to understand how to act professionally as a CNA and how to avoid the most common legal issues for nursing assistants today. Some of the issues you will examine and brief explanations of each can be found within the following section.

Patient Neglect

Perhaps the most common legal issue for CNAs today involves the neglect of patients. Unfortunately, heavy work loads and long shifts can often lead to this serious problem. But as a CNA, you must do your best to avoid any types of patient neglect! If you are overworked, try prioritizing your duties or asking a coworker for help.

Depending on the situation and outcome of neglect, this legal issue could cause you to lose your job or your certification as a CNA. In some cases, you could even be sued by the patient or his or her family. As such, always provide the care that your patients need or ask for, even if you are extremely busy.

Abuse of Patients

Abusing anyone, even patients, is against the law in the United States. Furthermore, abuse can consist of both physical and verbal types of mistreatment. There are severe consequences for abuse of patients typically involving the loss of your job, revocation of your CNA certification and in many cases, jail time, fines and community service.

As a CNA, you must never slap, hit, yell at, threaten or otherwise mistreat your patients. It is also unlawful to embarrass your patients, treat them disrespectfully or sexually harass them. Additionally, if you witness or suspect patient abuse, it is essential that you report it to your supervisor immediately.

Patients' Right to Privacy

Patients' right to privacy involves two areas: privacy during medical or personal care and privacy of personal and medical information. First, we will discuss patients' right to privacy during medical or personal care. What this means is simple. Whenever you are caring for your patients, shut their doors or curtains to maintain privacy.

Patients' right to privacy of medical information means that you should never discuss their medical conditions with anyone other than your immediate supervisor. Patients' right to privacy of personal information means that you should never discuss your patients' personal information with anyone in or outside of the facility. Repercussions for breaking these rules can include reprimands, write-ups or loss of your job.

Facility and Patient Theft

Although it may seem okay to you if you take something small from the medical facility where you work, you need to know that it is never acceptable unless you ask your supervisor first. This includes large items as well as such small items as bars of soap, note pads, pens, wash cloths, paper clips or deodorant. Theft is theft, no matter how small the item may be!

Likewise, it is never acceptable to take things from your patients. Of course, you may be able to accept small gifts from your patients, but it is always a good idea to ask your supervisor about the rules concerning this situation. Facility and patient theft can lead to various consequences depending on the situation. Common punishments include write-ups, verbal reprimands, loss of your job and in some cases, loss of your certification.


The most common legal issues for CNAs today involve patient abuse, neglect of patients, facility and patient theft, and patients' right to privacy.

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