In Practice

When may doctors give nurses telephonic treatment instructions?

David Jan McQuoid-Mason


Doctors are expected to examine their patients before issuing telephonic instructions to nurses. However, in emergencies or when they are aware of the health status of their patients, it may be justified for a doctor to issue telephonic instructions to nurses without examining the patient. Doctors on call owe a special duty to patients, who they may have to examine or arrange for another doctor to do so before issuing telephonic instructions. In deciding whether doctors acted reasonably in issuing telephonic instructions to nurses, the courts will decide whether they exercised the same degree of skill and care as reasonably competent practitioners in their branch of the profession. Suggestions are made concerning doctors giving telephonic instructions to nurses regarding patients they have not examined.

Author's affiliations

David Jan McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Telephonic instructions; Doctors; Nurses; 'On call'; Legal liability; Protocols

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(8):787-788. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i8.10830

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-03-23
Date published: 2016-07-18

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