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Being a Nurse Expert Witness

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Philips and Stark (2013) wrote an article in Nursing Magazine titled “Stepping up to be a nurse expert witness”.  They noted that nurses are “uniquely qualified to be expert witnesses because of their knowledge of the nursing process, attention to detail, and critical thinking, assessment, and problem-solving skills”.  The article describes the legal nurse role verses fact witness role, qualifications and the legal processes.

The role and responsibilities of the nurse expert outlined include:

  • reviewing facility or agency policies, procedures, and protocols relative to an incident
  • evaluating health records for accuracy, consistency and missing data
  • researching literature pertinent to the case
  • examining state statutes, nursing practice acts, and if applicable, nursing scope and standards of practice for specialized areas of nursing practice

Fact witnesses know first-hand about the events or the situation that occurred and they can testify as to what they experienced and saw, however, they should not for opinions or draw conclusions.  Whereas, expert witnesses have no first-hand knowledge about the case and are retained to provide an opinion and draw conclusions.

A good expert witness is credible, qualified, experienced and practices within the scope and standards of practice, these credentials can be showcased on a curriculum vitae (CV).  The expert should be prepared to testify in front of a judge and/or jury, should be honest, and not have had any professional or legal issues. If the expert has had any professional or legal issues it should be made known before, they are retained.

To read the rest of the article and the great tips click here.


Philips, Emily & Stark, Shannon (2013). Stepping up to be a nurse expert witness. Nursing2013.   (43)8, p. 55-59.  Retrieved from