Nursing Malpractice: Burnout In The Hospital

Life can sometimes feel like a bit of a circus; trying to juggle all the areas of life and hoping to get by without too many complications. We’ve all experienced fast-paced and stressful moments a time or two. And for some of us, those high stress situations may be more frequent. 

But what if those high-stress situations happened every day? In combination with the normal juggle of life? This is what many people in the medical field face. Always in a state of fight or flight because any wrong move could cost someone their life. 

You don’t have to walk into the hospital and administer a life-saving drug on your most stressful day, right? Talk about a lot of pressure.

This long-term stress often leads to nursing burnout, which can lead to nursing medical malpractice. Burnout is when you’re mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. As a result, you disengage. Rather than keeping that fight or flight response going, many nurses withdraw. That fire inside goes out and they’re left just trying to stay afloat.   

Pediatric nurse gives shot to child.

The Cause Of Nursing Burnout

There are a lot of things that contribute to nursing burnout. Yes, that stressful environment does a number, but it’s usually a build-up of a lot of bad situations over a long period of time that leads to nursing burnout.  Let’s look at some more causes of nursing burnout.

Long Shifts

Nurses work demanding 12-hour shifts and some put in overtime or even pick up extra days. These long hours lead to fatigue and increase the risk of nursing malpractice. Studies indicate that these long shifts may be unhealthy. 

Caregiver Fatigue

Nurses are always caring for other people and they have a reputation for being selfless. But many are so passionate about caring for others that they often neglect their own personal needs. When they don’t take the time to care for themselves, this can increase the risk of nursing error. 

Nursing Shortage & Hospital Downsizing

Nurses have to take on a greater workload and are given more responsibilities when a hospital isn’t fully staffed. A lot of times they have no choice but to rush from patient to patient. They also have to keep in mind patient information and history for multiple patients at a time. Mistakes happen more frequently when too much is put on a nurse’s plate. 

Emotional Stress Of Sickness & Death

Most people bring a little bit of work home with them when they return home at night. Completely shutting things off can be difficult when you clock out at night. Often times the stress and worry follows you home. This is especially true for nurses. 

Nurses experience consistent loss and aren’t given time to grieve. They push on from patient to patient unable to feel the emotions tied to each one. When they finally get home they’re left with a lot of hard situations to deal with. Heavy stories they’ve collected throughout the day. This emotional stress can take a toll on someone. It’s often the final trigger for nursing burnout. They stop feeling as much and disengage.  

What Does Nursing Malpractice Look Like? 

Nursing malpractice happens when nurses fail to fulfill their responsibilities. (In the way a competent nurse in the same situation would.) When that neglect injures the patient, you may have a nursing malpractice situation. 

Failing To Inform

Nurses are often the person who spends the most time with the patient. If there’s a sudden change in the patient’s condition the nurse will a lot of time be the first to know. It’s their responsibility to act in the moment. This may be giving the patient medicine or calling for help. 

One of a nurse’s responsibilities is to monitor patients. If something changes the nurse must notify the doctor on duty. If they don’t notice the change when a competent nurse in the same situation would, this can lead to malpractice. Understaffed hospitals have nurses who can’t spend enough time with each patient.   

Misuse Of Equipment 

If a patient is injured from equipment in the hospital, you may have malpractice. This can be anything from burning a patient to knocking over a lamp that hits them. 

Giving The Wrong Medicine 

Doctors give the orders and nurses are often the ones to administer medication to patients. This is common and if the nurse fails to follow those orders the patient could be injured. They could give the wrong medicine, the wrong dose, or administer it at the wrong site. A nurse needs to follow each patient’s schedule. A patient could need a dose that the nurse missed. 

Giving a patient the wrong medication can have devastating effects. How does this happen? Well sometimes, nursing burnout. Packages for various medications can look very similar. When the nurse is running on autopilot, they may unknowingly make a mistake. 

This cost a 79-year-old dialysis patient his life. A Florida nurse gave him a deadly dose of a drug that induces paralysis instead of an antacid. He went into cardiac arrest after the mistake. He was meant to have the antacid for an upset stomach. When his son came to see him the next morning he was unconscious, unresponsive, and on a respirator. 

The packaging on the two medications looked the same and the nurse made a mistake. Just a mistake took this man away from his family. The patient was unfortunately left brain dead and died a month later.

This could’ve been prevented if the nurse would’ve spent the time needed to read the medicine label. Thinking he was treating an upset stomach, he probably didn’t think that moment was as critical as it was. 

Autopilot can work a lot of the time. Especially when a nurse sees a patient as low risk or routine. But this man wasn’t in a critical condition when this horrible mistake happened. Nurses need to stay alert and precise at all times, otherwise medication errors can occur. 

Nurse is upset about making a medical error.

Nursing Malpractice Lawsuits

Nurses are held to a standard of care the same way doctors are. A lot of tasks you may think are the doctor’s responsibility, are actually tasks that a nurse carries out.

Here are a few more situations where nursing malpractice can happen:

  • Not responding to a patient’s call for help.
  • Failure to keep correct and complete medical records of the patient.
  • Neglecting to take the patient’s vital signs on schedule.
  • Failing to follow post-surgery protocols.

There are even surgical errors that can occur because of nursing negligence. Take surgical sponges, for example. More often than you might think, doctors find sponges inside of their patients. Yep. The sponge that a surgeon left in there after surgery. Sewed up the incision right over it. In some cases no one would ever know, but in others a patient may experience significant pain or infection because of it. 

Most of the time, it’s the surgical nurse’s responsibility to count every sponge that they open and place in the patient. When the procedure is over they count up the sponges that came out and notify the doctor if the numbers don’t match. 

Can you imagine being in a life-saving operation after 10 hours of work and needing to keep track of every sponge that goes in and out of a patient? You can see how this happens! 

Mistakes happen, but they don’t have to. And regardless, patient’s deserve to keep hospitals accountable. Medical mistakes can lead to grave consequences. If you or a family member has suffered an injury from nursing malpractice contact our office. Don’t wait too long as there’s usually a time limit according to your state. An attorney can help you gather the information you need to build your case and seek the compensation you deserve.