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Medication errors can have many causes. Sometimes, nurses cannot read a doctor’s handwriting and therefore administer the wrong dose of a drug. In other situations, pharmacies are to blame when they distribute medications to the wrong people. But sometimes, medication errors are simply caused by inexperience.
Last Saturday, a patient at a hospital died as a result of a medication error. The error happened while a temporary replacement nurse was responsible for the woman’s care. Many have speculated that the nurse’s inexperience with the hospital’s systems was at least partly responsible for the tragedy.
Nurses unions have been involved in tense contract negotiations with hospitals across the country. Last week, the California Nurses’ Association was engaged in a strike against the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center. The nurses were on strike on Thursday, and they were locked out by the hospital on Friday. The hospital reported that it has a contractual obligation to hire temporary nurses for a specific period of time that included last Saturday.
Many of the regular nurses at the hospital believe that the patient’s death was caused by the hospital’s lockout. One nurse phrased it this way: “Nurses are … caring for our patients who don’t have the proper training, who aren’t familiar with our equipment.” But the hospital says that all of the temporary nurses were experienced “in the areas to which they are assigned.”
Regardless of whether this tragedy was caused by the strike or lockout, the fact remains that a woman died as a result of a medication error in a hospital. Everyone from the most experienced nurses to those who are just starting their careers must remember that they hold patients’ lives in their hands. The hospital staff, including temporary and regular nurses, must be held accountable when their medical malpractice leads to a patient’s death.
Source: ABC News, “Patient Dies During Hospital Labor Dispute,” Kim Carollo, Sept. 26, 2011