Nurse Practitioner Subject to Lawsuit After Signing Off on Doctor's Report
On Dec. 1, 2015 Peter Strickholm was prescribed a medication for his high blood pressure by a nurse practitioner (NP) who had recently been established as his primary-care provider. One week later, Strickholm returned to have his blood pressure checked. A different nurse administered the blood pressure test, rather than his NP, and sent the results to another physician in the office who noted improvement as well as unchanged levels. The physician suggested Strickholm be seen again in a few weeks and to increase his dosage if his blood pressure levels were still elevated.
The NP did not review and approve of the physician’s report until Dec. 11, 2015 and made no further testing or treatment recommendations. Strickholm suffered cardiac arrest days later, leaving him with cognitive impairment, including memory issues. Strickholm’s parents subsequently filed a medical malpractice claim against the NP, alleging she had breached the relevant standard of care in her treatment of Strickholm up to and through at least Dec. 8, causing him harm.
The NP filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that she did not provide any medical care to Strickholm after Dec. 1, which rendered Strickholm’s complaint late by three days. The trial court later granted the NP’s motion for summary judgment and concluded that the continuous-wrongdoing doctrine didn’t apply to the NP’s single act of prescribing Strickholm medication, and that she didn’t provide health care to him the day she signed his report because she did not physically see him in person.
Strickholm filed an appeal with the Indiana Court of Appeals, and the Court reversed the trial court’s ruling on the NP’s motion for summary judgment. The Court reasoned that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether the NP provided health care to Strickholm when she approved the report authored by the doctor that saw Strickholm on December 11. This is because the NP approved the December 11 report and had a chance to order further testing or treatment but declined.