Many times, it is not just a doctor who is at fault for medical errors. Medical personnel including nurses, technicians, and other support staff all have important duties to patients that, if neglected, can result in serious injuries or death.
If you have been injured as a result of a negligent nurse, or any other health care professional, you have a right to receive compensation for your injuries. At Kanoski Bresney, our Springfield medical malpractice lawyers have been fighting on behalf of injured people throughout central Illinois for more than 40 years.
Nurses Have Unique Responsibilities
Nurses play an incredibly pivotal role in the healthcare system, and they are often tasked with a significant amount of on-the-job duties. The primary role of a nurse is to advocate and care for their patients. In addition to this incredibly important role, nurses also have various other functions, which can include the following:
- Recording a patient’s medical history and symptoms
- Collaborating with a medical team to plan for patient care
- Monitor a patient’s health and vital signs
- Administer medications and treatment to a patient
- Operate medical equipment
- Performing diagnostic tests
- Educate patients and their families about management of their injuries and illnesses
- Provide advice and support to patients
When looking at these responsibilities, it is clear that nurses have an incredible amount of responsibility. Consider your own experiences with the healthcare industry. When you go to the hospital or doctor’s office, who do you interact with first? Who takes your vital signs? After you were seen by a doctor, who is primarily responsible for administering care?
The answer to all of these questions is generally the same – a nurse.
Causes Of Nurse Errors
Tragically, many nurse errors are the result of insufficient staffing, fatigue, inadequate training and other institutional defects that result when a hospital, nursing home or other health care provider emphasize profits over patient safety.
Nursing Errors That Are Considered as Medical Malpractice
When most people think of medical malpractice, they think of complaints against doctors and surgeons. However, these individuals certainly are not the only types of medical professionals that can face malpractice claims. Nurses, too, can face allegations of malpractice. Nurses, regardless of the level they practice that, are licensed medical professionals. These individuals are obligated to provide an adequate standard of care to their patients. That is, they must provide the same level of care that a similarly trained nurse would provide in a similar situation.
There are various ways that nurses can make mistakes that would be considered medical malpractice. This can include the following:
- Not informing a physician of a change in patient condition. When a patient is undergoing treatment in a medical facility, they must be monitored closely for changes in their vital signs and mental status. This is especially true after a medical procedure, such as surgery, is performed. Any changes in a patient’s condition could be a sign something is going wrong. A nurse must immediately notify a doctor about these changes. When a doctor does not know about a change to a patient’s condition, it is impossible for them to implement medical treatment. Delayed treatment and these situations can have detrimental effects on the patient’s recovery and outcome.
- Failing to advocate for a patient. Many people do not understand that nurses have a role when advocating for patients. Advocacy involves a nurse assessing a patient, forming a nursing diagnosis, and then making recommendations to other medical staff for orders. In the event that a doctor or other medical professional resists a nurse’s recommendation, advocacy may require that a nurse take their issue farther up the chain of command. Advocacy is a critically important part of a nurse-patient relationship that often determines the outcome of patient safety.
- Injuries caused by the nursing care. The truth is that most patient care lands in the hands of a nurse. After a doctor makes a diagnosis and initiates a treatment plan, or after a surgical procedure, nurses are the ones who follow through was nearly all patient care. This includes monitoring vital signs, administrating medications, treating and cleaning wounds, and more. Nurses may also be liable for failing to implement infection control protocols for their patience. Healthcare-acquired infections are a leading cause of deaths in American hospitals, according to the CDC. Another major cause of patient injuries includes following accidents. These incidents commonly occur when nurses failed to take appropriate precautions for fall risk patients.
Many people will argue that nurses cannot do anything independent of a physician order. This is simply not true. Nurses are highly trained medical professionals that see their patients more often than doctors. They can, and they do, make medical mistakes.
Heavy Workloads Contribute to Nursing Errors
It has long been argued that overworked medical professionals cannot reliably provide a high level of patient care. This is true regardless of the medical setting, whether in an emergency room, in a general hospital setting, at a doctor’s office, or a medical clinic.
The heavy workload facing nurses is a major problem in the US health care system. Studies from all over the world and in the United States have shown that nurses are experiencing high workloads due to an increased demand for nurses, an inadequate supply of nurses, reduced staffing, increased overtime, a reduction in patient length of stay.
Throughout the United States, individual healthcare facilities often have the ability to set their own safe staffing standards. An appropriate nurse to patient ratio is vitally important. A recent study found that nurses in Illinois, on average, are responsible for approximately 5.2 patients at a time. This study found that only 18% of nurses in Illinois considered the nurse to patient ratio to be “safe.”
Stretching a nursing staff too thin can create incredible workplace stress. While this is certainly detrimental for the nurses, it is also incredibly dangerous for the patients under the nurses’ care. Overworked medical professionals are much more likely to make preventable medical mistakes.
Injuries Caused By Nursing Errors
Our team of skilled trial litigators includes experienced medical malpractice attorneys who are committed to holding medical professionals responsible for injuries caused by medical negligence. We handle a broad range of medical malpractice claims, including claims resulting from nursing errors. Examples of nurse errors include:
- Failure to properly communicate with doctors
- Failure to properly take or record vital signs
- Dispensing the wrong medication or wrong medication dosage to patients
- Failure to perform necessary care on a timely basis
- Performance of medical tasks for which the nurse is not properly trained
- General carelessness that leads to a patient’s injury or death
How often do medical mistakes happen?
Unfortunately, medical mistakes are not uncommon. According to researchers from Johns Hopkins University, preventable medical errors may be responsible for approximately 250,000 deaths each year in the United States. This would make medical mistakes the third leading cause of death in the country. The figures only include the deaths caused by medical mistakes. Some estimates show that millions of patients are harmed and left dealing with the consequences of medical mistakes each year.
What kind of compensation is available in a nursing malpractice case?
There may be various types of compensation available to victims harmed by a nursing mistake. This could include the following:
- Coverage of any medical bills related to the error
- Compensation for any future medical expenses caused by the mistake
- Costs for medications or medical devices for the patient
- Coverage of lost wages if a victim is unable to work
- Any out-of-pocket expenses that the patient incurs
- Pain and suffering damages
- Loss of personal enjoyment damages
- Possible punitive damages in cases of gross nursing negligence
There is no set amount of money that a victim will receive after experiencing a medical error. The total amount of compensation a victim receives in a successful medical malpractice case will vary depending on the circumstances related to each particular incident. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will be able to work with expert economic and medical professionals in order to properly calculate the total losses a victim will incur.
What are the elements of nursing negligence claims?
For any medical malpractice claim, including nursing negligence, there are various elements of the case that must be proven in order for a victim to be awarded damages. These elements include:
- Duty. It needs to be shown that there was a duty of care owed by the nurse to the patient. Just like there is a doctor-patient relationship, there can also be a nurse-patient relationship. Generally, if a nurse treats a patient in any way, this relationship is established.
- Breach. It needs to be proven that there was a breach of a nurse’s duty of care to the patient. Generally, this means that the nurse treated the patient with a level of care below what a similarly trained nurse would provide in a similar situation.
- Causation. A victim (or their attorney) will need to show that the nurse’s breach of duty led to the injuries or illness that the patient sustained, and that they otherwise would not have sustained had the breach of duty not occurred.
- Damages. Finally, it will need to be shown that the victim sustained actual damages as a result of a nurse’s malpractice. This can include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering damages, and more.
When working to prove these four elements of negligence, a victim will want to speak to a qualified medical malpractice attorney with a thorough understanding of these cases.
Why Choose Us
The Springfield personal injury attorneys at Kanoski Bresney are committed to helping people who have been injured as a result of nursing errors and other forms of medical negligence. Our attorneys focus exclusively on injury-based claims, including personal injury, workers’ compensation and medical malpractice.
Call Kanoski Bresney today at (217) 523-7742 for a free case consultation. To provide convenient services to people throughout central Illinois, we have office locations in Springfield, Champaign, Bloomington, Quincy, Rushville, Macomb, Pekin and Decatur.