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INsight | Nursing Care

February 19, 2020

Dave Farnbauch sits down with ABC's INsight to talk about nursing care and the role that nurses play in keeping patients safe. Cases of medical malpractice are often brought against doctors and hospitals, but are nurses ever liable as well?

You can read the full transcript below, or access a PDF version here

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Charity: Well, welcome back. We're here with Dave Farnbauch. Today's topic is nursing care, and the role that nurses play in keeping patients safe. We've talked over the years a lot with you and Dr. King about medical malpractice and the cases you've brought against hospitals and doctors, but I'm curious about nurses. Are they ever brought into these lawsuits, and honestly, are they ever sued personally for medical malpractice? 

Dave Farnbauch: Well, Charity, that's a great question. I think a lot of people wonder when we have lawsuits against the hospital, or doctor, or doctors and hospitals as part of a medical malpractice lawsuit, are the nurses sort of dragged into these cases, or are the nurses sued personally for their involvement in a patient's care? And the answer to that question is, frequently nurses and their conduct are involved in a particular lawsuit that stems from patient care at a hospital. I would say it's very rare that we sue the nurses personally, that they're named defendants in a case. And the reason for that is because the hospital is legally responsible for the nurse's conduct, so it's not necessary to name nurses individually as defendants in a lawsuit. 

Charity: So how are they brought into the cases? What is their role in the medical malpractice case? 

Dave Farnbauch: Well, there's a couple of different ways. One way is pretty apparent, which is there's an allegation that the nurses failed to do something that they were supposed to do as part of their normal nursing protocols, or they failed to carry out the physician's orders with regard to that patient. There's a reason that nurses are tasked with continually monitoring vital signs, doing neurological checks. Because when you're in a hospital and under certain settings, if you don't do those checks in a timely manner and a patient starts to deteriorate, that delay in checking on the patient's condition and bringing a doctor in can be important in causing a patient's death, or injuries, or whatever. So we frequently allege that nurses were negligent in doing their job. 

Dave Farnbauch: Another way that they're brought into these cases is they have the most contact with patients. They're the ones that are there at bedside with patients, so they can become critical witnesses about what actually happened when a patient started to deteriorate. Where was the doctor? Did you try to page the doctor? Did you go up what we call the chain of command? Oftentimes in a hospital setting a patient will start to deteriorate, and a nurse will become concerned that a patient isn't receiving the necessary physician care. So what they're required to do, the way they're trained, is to go up the chain of command. Go get ahold of a charge nurse, go get ahold of a hospitalist, bring somebody in a timely manner to attend to this patient before something really bad happens. 

Charity: So a nurse then goes up the chain of command, are they then liable if there's medical malpractice? 

Dave Farnbauch: No. A nurse isn't necessarily liable, but what we do check on is whether the nurse took the appropriate steps and they went up the appropriate chain of command to try to bring somebody in to provide care to that patient. So once again, most of the time nurses are not the ones that we target as defendants, but there are occasions when we allege that the nurses didn't do their job properly and that resulted in harm to the patient. 

Charity: Well, if you believe that you've been a victim of medical malpractice and you want to talk about it, Sweeney Law Firm will consult with you on your case. All you have to do is give them a call, 420-3137. We'll be right back.