CNAs and the Law

CNAs and the Law

With rare exception, anyone entering the medical field can expect to encounter legal issues that pertain to their professional lives. CNAs are no different. As an integral part of patients’ daily care, CNAs must understand the laws as well as the consequences in order to maintain compliance and stay out of legal entanglements.

Common Issues

Abuse and negligence are two of the most common allegations made against CNAs. Since their patients are a very vulnerable population, including a large number of senior citizens, these concerns are paramount.


Abuse may come from many different individuals, including family, other medical workers, or other patients. It can also take the form of physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal abuse—none of which is acceptable.


Negligence, on the other hand, can be either intended or unintended. Sometimes, it happens simply because the CNA is in a hurry, but remember that even small mistakes can have tremendous consequences in the medical field.

Other Concerns

Another legal issue for CNAs can be assault and battery, which is the charge that can be levied if treatment is performed against a patient’s will. Patients also have the right to come and go as they please unless the physician orders physical restraints. If they are prevented from going anywhere without authorization, it can be considered false imprisonment. If they are prohibited from leaving without authorization, it is involuntary seclusion.

How to Protect Yourself

To minimize the threat of legal trouble, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of any accusations.

  1. Report any suspected abuse or negligence.

  2. Discuss any concerns about patient care with a supervisor.

  3. Adhere to all policies.

  4. Continue educating yourself on policy and law changes.

  5. Ensure that you have informed consent for any treatment that is administered.

  6. Be patient and think through actions in which the legality is questionable. Seek out another opinion or additional information if you are still uncertain.

  7. If an allegation is made against you, seek professional counsel.

The role of a CNA is a critical one in ensuring quality patient care. Protecting both your patients, as well as yourself, from legal problems is something that should be treated with tremendous importance. The consequences of being indifferent are severe, ranging from termination, loss of license to even criminal charges in some instances.

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