Approximately 25% of cases involving medical negligence involve poor nursing care (nursing negligence). Nurses whilst they are not medically trained to the standard of a specialist medical practitioner have undertaken extensive educational requirements and are also under a duty of care to look after patients appropriately.
Examples of nursing errors include the following:-
(a) Failure to regularly and adequately check on patients following surgery whilst under their care to determine their ongoing requirements for medication, and additional emergency treatment and/or operative intervention due to post-operative complications;
(b) Errors in administering medication to patients involving excessive or incorrect doses of medication;
(c) Failure assisting a patient to and from a hospital bed, particularly following surgery and not taking into account the general physical instability of patients thus allowing patients to fall and sustain significant physical injuries;
(d) Failing to lift and move the patient in a safe manner thus causing unexpected orthopaedic injuries, particularly to the lower back;
(e) Failure to ensure the patient is regularly moved in such a way to avoid bedsores and partial paralysis to parts of the body, particularly legs and arms that have not been adequately exercised;
(f) Failure to diagnose on a preliminary basis when patients are admitted through emergency and are triaged with conditions, meningitis, stroke, orthopaedic issues requiring immediate treatment and heart condition symptoms.
As nurses are highly likely to be employed by a public and/or private hospital, whilst the nurse may be at fault the employer is the ultimate party to be sued in an action for nursing negligence and of course the insurer for the hospital will be ultimately responsible for any damages that are payable.
Nurses like all medical practitioners are required to keep detailed and thorough notes of treatment, ongoing provision of services to a patient and full details of any complications that might have occurred. The nursing notes are retained at the hospital where the nurse works and are often subpoenaed during the course of a court case to determine the precise timeline of events in a particular matter that is being litigated.
There have been a number of cases where a nurse has provided excessive doses of the drug known as Syntocinon to bring on contractions in obstetric matters that ultimately cause catastrophic hypoxic brain injury to the newborn.
Nurses also have the ability to discharge patients from hospitals at stages that may be inappropriate and too premature. The nurse has an obligation to ensure that a patient can leave the hospital in a safe manner and should provide to most patients that have undergone operative treatment a wheelchair and/or provide assistance so that the chances of a further injury due to a fall do not occur. This often depends on the standards set out by the hospital and its policies involving assistance to be provided to patients under the care of nurses.
We have run successfully many negligence cases where nurses have inappropriately inserted of cannulas into a patient’s vein ultimately causing damage to nerves and muscle atrophy due to the incorrect manner of insertion. These are matters where we would obtain expert evidence from other medical specialists to support negligence against the nurse.
Nurses must know the safety features, capabilities and limitations of any equipment they use as well as the hazards. Nurses must follow manufactures usage recommendations and always check that the medication being given to patients is not only the correct medication but the correct dosage.
Other cases of nursing negligence related to a nurses failure to assess and monitor a patient and failure to communicate changes in a patients condition as soon as is practicable to the medical specialist under whom the patient has been admitted or to a senior medical practitioner at the hospital.
At Gerard Malouf & Partners Medical Neglience Lawyers we are expert in nursing negligence cases and are successful in over 98% of claims.