Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Vanderbilt Nurse

The Medication Error on the News

The recent news about the Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse is getting on-going attention.  While I try not to comment on specific cases, I want to comment on this because it is constantly in my news feed and is deserving of a comment.  Recognizing we don’t have all the details (and probably never will) this is what I want to say.

Many people sympathize with the nurse who allegedly broke rules and gave the patient the wrong medication which supposedly was the cause of death. Nurses rally around her for support.  They have raised thousands of dollars for her defense fund on GoFundMe. There is nothing good to come of this and there will be no happy ending so let’s look at another perspective.

Who is rallying around the family of the 75-year old woman who died?  Where is their support system?  Can they be told how this happened, treated with dignity to understand or are they being made to look the bad guys?  Are the malpractice attorneys’ part of this media blitz to get a faster settlement for the family and bring attention to this case? 

Has the nurse made numerous mistakes before, broken rules and injured or killed many people?  If so, shame on that hospital for keeping her on.  If she has never done this before, then shame on them for not showing sympathy to the family, offering full disclosure, a settlement and a description on how changes will be made for improvement and even retraining the nurse.

For goodness sake if you have ever looked at your cell phone when driving, you can injure or kill someone.  And because you are breaking the law you are held accountable and will be treated as a criminal.  Does anyone really think this nurse committed a crime?  Maybe she’s just not a very good nurse, was in a rush or just made a mistake of poor judgement – does that make her a criminal?

As long as we keep medication errors, medical injuries and patient safety a secret from the public, it will stay newsworthy when someone dies and causes this sort of media attention.

Could this have been avoided if the patient had an advocate and new what medication the patient was supposed to get?  If the patient’s advocate sat with the patient during her treatment could the problem have been found sooner?  We will probably never know.

As long as the healthcare system and medical professionals are the only one’s responsible for patient’s safety and working in silos with the patient and family looking in from the outside, you bet this problem will continue.  As a parent who lost a child from medical error and was chased down by attorney’s calling my home for days wanting to take the case but doors closing from the medical community, I will tell you to this day, years later, all I ever wanted was an apology and an explanation and to move on.

I’m wondering what this family really wants and how this all got to this point.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Words to Help Communicate

Critical Communication and Words to Help

When I went to visit the woman at the hospital because she was not getting her medication, her questions were not being answered and she was barely able to speak and eat, she shared how angry she was at the lack of attention she was getting.    It is understandable being alone, scared and as someone always in control, having your independence taken away.  Anyone would be vulnerable in this situation.  She was calling people down the list of phone numbers of people who worked in the hospital she received and in her weakened voice from a painful condition affecting her voice. She told me she screamed “Help, help!!” into the phone.

By the time I got there and cleared up the problems she was having, I explained that yelling “help” into the phone, or in a hospital, may actually get people to turn the sound off in their head.  They may think of you’re as crazy, or annoying, I told her and like many of the buzzing sounds and alarms that scare or annoy us, they can tune sounds out – or, if someone needs them more, that’s where they will go and yelling help will only annoy other patients and staff.

Instead, what patients can do is let them know that you don’t feel that you are part of the care.  Patient centered care is a term that professionals use to keep the patient in the center of the care team.  Nurses shift changes should not be at their desk or in the hall. The patient should expect the shift change at the patient’s bedside so you can help answer questions or share concerns.  Don’t hesitate to let the staff know that the care does not feel “patient centered” if it, in fact doesn’t.    

Yelling help also doesn’t give specifics such as letting them know if you don’t feel “safe”.  Feeling unsafe because you’re not getting your medication, or the proper medication, your doctor has not come around while you are awake to speak to you about your diagnosis, treatment plan or answer your questions are real reasons to feel your safety may be at risk because you are not being included in the planning.

A clear explanation of your needs is important for the medical staff to know what you need and of course, if you can’t get out of bed having a friend or family member help you is important.  If the person visiting you can’t do this, think now who that person will be, before you need them. 

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