Earlier this year, a nurse named RaDonda Vaught was sentenced to three years of probation for committing a medical error that resulted in a patient’s death. According to Vox, a digital news outlet, in 2017, Vaught, while working at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, mistakenly administered the wrong medication to a patient. As a result of Vaught’s negligence, the patient, Charlene Murphy, died.
The medical errors that Vaught committed included:
- Taking the incorrect medication from one of the hospital’s prescribing cabinets
- Failing to notice warnings on the medication’s label
- Not monitoring her patient’s vital signs after administering the medication
In addition to Vaught’s errors, an investigation found that several safeguards that should have been in place to protect patients weren’t present at the hospital at that time. The lack of those safeguards was found to be partially responsible for Murphy’s death.
In the aftermath of the deadly incident, Vaught was charged with and ultimately convicted of gross neglect of an impaired adult and criminally negligent homicide. When combined, convictions for those crimes carry a maximum sentence of eight years in prison. The fact that Vaught only received three years of probation and has an opportunity to have her conviction dismissed after completing probation sets a dangerous precedent for patient safety.
What Is Nursing Malpractice?
Nursing malpractice is basically the same as medical malpractice except instead of being committed by a doctor, nurses commit nursing malpractice. Nursing malpractice occurs when nurses fail to fulfill their duties in a way that a competent nurse would if in the same situation and their mistake results in a patient suffering an injury.
Not every medical error that a nurse makes is considered nursing malpractice. However, in general, the following are examples of nursing malpractice:
- Failing to Act – Nurses are often the first people to interact with patients. If a patient experiences an emergency, nurses must act. That could mean they administer medication to the patient or it could simply mean they call for help. When patients are injured because a nurse failed to act, that can be grounds for nursing malpractice.
- Injuring a Patient with Medical Equipment – If a nurse injures a patient with a piece of medical equipment, that can be grounds for a nursing malpractice claim. Examples of this include leaving a piece of medical equipment inside a patient following surgery, accidentally dropping a heavy piece of equipment on a patient, or accidentally cutting a patient with a sharp piece of medical equipment.
- Medication Errors – This can involve administering the wrong medication to a patient. It can also involve administering the incorrect dosage of a medication to a patient. Other examples of medication errors include injecting the wrong patient with medication or injecting medication in a muscle instead of a vein.
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