While it is the function of doctors and specialists to order tests, diagnose illnesses and decide upon appropriate treatment measures, patients would never receive the care that they need without the help of nurses. Whether through the administration of medicines, monitoring of vital signs or assisting patients with their general needs, nurses serve the needs of patients and doctors alike by making sure that doctors are aware of complications and patients are recovering as they should. The Chicago nursing medical malpractice attorneys of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers recognize and appreciate the value of the services nurses provide, but are also aware of the harm that results from nursing errors and inattentive care.
Nurses Come in Many Forms and Have Unique Responsibilities
Just as there are many specialties for doctors to pursue, there are numerous types of nurses. Each serves a specific function and has received the training to perform duties in their area of expertise. It is very easy for others to assume that all nurses are the same and to expect one form of nurse to understand and be able to perform the duties that apply to a different type of nurse. While there are many titles given to nurses in varying fields, the most common types of nurses include the following.
- Certified Nurse Assistant— these nurses are qualified to perform functions under the supervision of a certified nurse or nurse practitioner. They are not certified nurses and should not be expected to provide any form of care they have not received training to be able to provide.
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist— as the title implies, this nurse assists anesthesiologists by preparing patients prior to the administration of anesthesia. Their duties can include inserting IV catheters and monitoring patients’ vital signs while they are under.
- Registered Nurse— it is the responsibility of registered nurses to implement treatment plans under the order of doctors, who may have prescribed medications or ordered tests. A registered nurse may be responsible for performing an initial exam of the patient, coordinating tasks such as the collection of blood or urine samples, administering medications, dressing or redressing wounds, communicating medical instructions to patients and delegating tasks to assistants. While registered nurses may act decisively in the event of an emergency, they are not trained, equipped or permitted to diagnose medical conditions or to prescribe medicines or treatment options.
- Nurse Practitioner— the most versatile form of nurse is the nurse practitioner, who is trained and licensed to be able to diagnose and treat many medical conditions. They allow specialists who are overloaded with patients to focus on their duties and are able to perform the general duties of both a doctor and a nurse. Nurse practitioners do not work solely in emergency care and may work cooperatively with physicians in private practices or on their own.
- Home Health Nurse— there are different types of home health nurses, but what they all have in common is that they provide care to patients in the comfort of their own homes. They may be tasked with caring for patients requiring assisted living, providing treatment to the terminally ill or assisting patients that have limited mobility.
Since the duties of nurses are dependent on their setting, it is important that they receive additional training whenever they assume a new position, as the needs of their patients may be different and they may need to learn how to continue working safely in the new environment.
A Wide Range of Duties and Heavy Workload May Contribute to Nursing Malpractice
In addition to following treatment orders provided by doctors, nurses must observe patients and communicate with doctors about changing health conditions and concerns that need to be addressed. Due to the general shortage of nurses in the healthcare field and the tendency for many care facilities to understaff in order to save money, most nurses are saddled with heavy workloads and unrealistic expectations. Most cases of nursing malpractice occur because the nurse is in a hurry to get to another patient or is pulled away from a patient to serve another, only to forget about the first patient and never return.
The responsibilities of a nurse can include the following.
- Drawing blood and collecting urine or stool samples. The mishandling of these fluids can have a devastating impact, as it is possible for contaminated tests to result in incorrect diagnoses and tests that are mislabeled to be returned for the wrong patient.
- Inserting an IV for the purpose of providing fluids, medications or anesthesia. It is important that nurses take proper precautions when inserting an IV both to protect themselves and the patient from blood borne pathogens and infection. All of the equipment must be sterile and disposed of properly after the removal of the IV.
- Administering medications as prescribed. Medication errors are a huge problem in the United States. Studies have returned alarming results concerning the number of patients receiving the wrong medications, whether at home, in a hospital or while residing in an assisted living community. From doctors prescribing the wrong medications or dosages to pharmacists filling medications incorrectly to nurses administering the medicines improperly, medication errors are common. With this in mind, it is important for nurses to understand doctors’ instructions and ask questions when it appears that the medication doesn’t match the prescription and to make sure that the chart matches the patient, but when nurses are in a hurry, these steps may be skipped.
- Communicating treatment specifics with patients and providing information about their condition so that they understand the steps they need to take during recovery. Doctors spend far less time with their patients than nurses do, and may only briefly apprise them of their conditions and treatment options. A nurse will then provide further education and answer the questions and concerns patients have.
- Treating surgical wounds, changing dressings and monitoring patients for signs of complications following an injury or surgery. Patients are at an increased risk of developing infections after invasive procedures and nurses are likely to spot the signs of an infection before the doctor will.
- Assessing the immediate needs of patients in triage. When patients first arrive in a hospital or emergency room, they are evaluated by a triage nurse, who determines how serious the patient’s condition or injury is in order to send those who need immediate care to the front of the line while managing the needs of others who may be able to wait longer for care.
- Collecting information about the patient that may be instrumental in diagnosis or follow up care. Nurses have the ability to observe patients and gather information that doctors simply do not, due to their own responsibilities and functions. It is the duty of nurses to record vital signs, collect patient information and report to doctors when they believe there is a concern beyond their ability to treat.
- Taking care of patients’ personal needs. Home health nurses or nurses working with patients in assisted living centers need to be aware of their personal needs to ensure that they are receiving the care they require. Nurses may assist patients as they eat, help them to the bathroom or into bed and provide preventative care to reduce the risk of bedsores.
Our Chicago nursing malpractice lawyers have noticed that some incidents involving negligence occurred despite the best of intentions. Others were due to the inability of the nurse to direct his or her attention to the needs of an overwhelming number of patients.
Nursing Errors Considered as Medical Malpractice
Some of the errors or bad decisions that nurses may commit that can be defined as medical negligence may include the following.
- Performing medical procedures on patient without proper knowledge, training or authorization. Except in the case of nurse practitioners, nurses are not allowed to diagnose medical conditions or to provide medications without prescriptions.
- Mismanaging the collection of information or test samples.
- Administering incorrect doses of medication or providing medication to the wrong patient.
- Delaying in communicating concerns with doctors regarding the status of a patient in distress.
- Failing to notice signs of distress, allowing the patient’s condition to worsen.
- Intentionally or unintentionally going against the orders provided by the patient’s doctor.
- Failing to delegate responsibilities to assistants or to properly supervise assistants when they provided care.
- Failing to properly evaluate the serious nature of a patient’s concerns in triage, allowing the patient to suffer additional harm due to delay in care.
- Not taking proper precautions when inserting or removing IVs, handling biohazards and disposing of medical waste.
- Allowing patients to suffer harm due to lack of supervision.
- Failing to undergo training specific to the type of work being performed and the work environment.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers is committed to serving the needs of any person who has suffered an injury or lost a loved one due to medical errors and negligence. If you believe that your injuries were the result of nursing malpractice, you may be entitled to recover compensation for the value of your medical care, future medical needs, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. We have helped thousands of clients just like you secure the damages they needed to move forward with their lives and can help you do the same.
Contact us today to be connected with one of our award winning Chicago nursing medical malpractice attorneys so that we can gather all of the information needed to investigate your claim and determine the best course of action. We’ll let you know what legal options you have and answer all of your questions so that you know what you can expect from start to finish. Should we fail to secure the compensation you are entitled to, our services will be free of charge.