What Does it Mean for a Nurse to Sign a Consent for Surgery Form?
The duties of the preoperative or perianesthesia nurse include many specific tasks that may affect outcomes for the surgical patient. Initially, registered nurses conduct a preoperative (pre-op) phone or in-person assessment and triage to ensure all the appropriate lab work, diagnostic tests, and any additional questions are addressed prior to the patient presenting for their procedure. One such task for the pre-op is to review the formal consent form and to sign as a witness that the patient has signed the document.
Some nurses have voiced concerns that they are being asked to provide "informed consent" and therefore must know everything about the form and the surgery. However, the nurse is only tasked to ensure that the patient (or legal representative) signs the form. If the patient doesn't understand the intended surgery, or there is any discrepancy with the site of the surgery, it is the responsibility of the clinician performing the procedure to clear up any questions. The term "informed consent" is reserved only for those clinicians (usually a surgeon) who are performing the surgery. This is specific information that must be documented in the patient's chart (prior to surgery) and needs to include verbiage that the patient was informed of the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the planned procedure.
Witnessing the consent form is just one of many important tasks for registered nurses on a surgical team.