Adults at risk: Adults who have a physical or mental condition that impairs their ability to care for their own needs and are at risk for neglect and/or abuse.

Assault: Intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.

Autonomy: The capacity to determine one’s own actions through independent choice, including demonstration of competence. The nurse’s primary ethical obligation is client autonomy.

Battery: Intentional causation of harmful or offensive contact with another person without that person’s consent.

Beneficence: Benefiting others by preventing harm, removing harmful conditions, or affirmatively acting to benefit another or others, often going beyond what is required by law.

Board of Nursing: The state-specific licensing and regulatory body that sets standards for safe nursing care and issues nursing licenses to qualified candidates based on the Nurse Practice Act enacted by that state’s legislature.

Capacity: A functional determination that an individual is or is not capable of making a medical decision within a given situation.

Competency: A legal term related to the degree of cognitive ability an individual has to make decisions or carry out specific acts.

Confidentiality: The right of an individual to have personal, identifiable medical information kept private.

Civil law: The rights, responsibilities, and legal relationships between private citizens and involves compensation to the injured party.

Criminal law: A system of laws that punishes individuals who commit crimes.

Defamation of character: Actions when an individual makes negative, malicious, and false remarks about another person to damage their reputation.

Defendants: The parties named in the lawsuit.

Emergency admission: Individuals are admitted to psychiatric facilities under emergency admission status when they are deemed likely to harm themselves or others.

False imprisonment: An act of restraining another person and causing that person to be confined in a bounded area.

Fraud: An intentional tort that occurs when an individual is deceived for personal gain.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Federal regulations to ensure the privacy and protection of personal records and information.

Informed consent: The fundamental right of an individual to receive information about the risks, benefits, and alternatives in order to make a healthcare decision.

Intentional tort: A wrong that the defendant knew (or should have known) would be caused by their actions.

Involuntary admission: Circumstances when a person becomes so mentally ill they are at risk of hurting themselves or others, and inpatient care becomes necessary even though the individual does not desire inpatient care.

Justice: A moral obligation to act on the basis of equality and equity and a standard linked to fairness for all in society.

Malpractice: A specific term used for negligence committed by a health professional with a license.

Mandated reporters: Nurses and other professionals required by state law to report suspected neglect and/or abuse of children, adults at risk, and the elderly.

Negligence: The failure to exercise the ordinary care a reasonable person would use in similar circumstances.

Nonmaleficence: The bioethical principle that specifies a duty to do no harm and balances avoidable harm with benefits of good achieved.

Nurse Practice Act: Law enacted by that state’s legislature that establishes regulations for nursing practice within that state and defines the scope of nursing practice.

Plaintiff: A person bringing a lawsuit.

Protected Health Information (PHI): Individually identifiable health information including demographic data that relates to the individual’s past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition; the provision of health care to the individual; and the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual.

Psychiatric Advance Directive (PAD): A legal document that describes a person’s preferences for future mental health treatment or names an individual to make treatment decisions for them if they are in a crisis and unable to make decisions.

Restraints: Devices used in health care settings to prevent patients from causing harm to themselves or others when alternative interventions are not effective.

Role fidelity: Being responsible for providing competent nursing care.

Seclusion: The confinement of a patient in a locked room from which they cannot exit on their own. It is generally used as a method of discipline, convenience, or coercion.

Standards of Professional Nursing Practice: Authoritative statements from the American Nurses Association regarding the actions and behaviors that all registered nurses, regardless of role, population, specialty, and setting, are expected to perform competently.

Standards of Professional Performance: Twelve standards set by the American Nurses Association that describe a nurse’s professional behavior, including activities related to ethics, advocacy, respectful and equitable practice, communication, collaboration, leadership, education, scholarly inquiry, quality of practice, professional practice evaluation, resource stewardship, and environmental health.

Tort: An act of commission or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability.

Unintentional tort: A wrong that occurs when the defendant’s actions or inactions were unreasonably unsafe. Unintentional torts can result from acts of commission (i.e., doing something a reasonable nurse would not have done) or omission (i.e., failing to do something a reasonable nurse would do).

Veracity: Telling the truth.

Voluntary admission: An individual over age 16 who presents to a psychiatric facility and requests hospitalization. They are considered competent with the capacity to make health care decisions (unless determined otherwise).


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Nursing: Mental Health and Community Concepts Copyright © by Chippewa Valley Technical College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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