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Delegation and the legal, professional and ethical issues for veterinary nurses: a case study

02 May 2017
11 mins read
Volume 8 · Issue 4


This article aims to examine a given scenario from legal, professional and ethical perspectives to highlight what is appropriate delegation. It is important to consider a student's level of knowledge and stage of training to also gain insights into the appropriate delegation of tasks in practice.

During a weekday's surgical session, the ward registered veterinary nurse (RVN) on duty gets called into theatre to assist with an orthopaedic procedure. There are several inpatients that require monitoring and administration of a range of medications. The RVN requests that his assisting student veterinary nurse (SVN), currently in the first year of training, administer potassium to a patient, as requested by the veterinary surgeon (VS) on the treatment plan, for severe hypokalaemia. The SVN completes the task, administering the medication via the patient's indwelling intravenous catheter. On examination some time later, the patient is discovered deceased in the kennel. On investigation by the VS it is apparent that the infusion was delivered rapidly and probably caused, or contributed to, the patient's death.

The key issues that will be explored in this article focus on the delegation of Schedule 3 tasks, in particular the intravenous injection of medications where there may not be clear guidance as to the speed of administration or complications that may arise. The legal, professional and ethical issues will be addressed to gain an insight into where failings have been made in the critical incident and how these may apply to practice.

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