Are hospital miscommunications injuring patients?

Is there a code of silence among hospital staff, even in the face of negligence? According to a recent article, some hospitals might discourage whistleblowers by firing nurses who attempt to report doctors’ mistreatment of patients.

The article also questions whether poor communication between nursing staff and doctors might be putting patients at risk. In one example, a miscommunication between a cardiologist and nurse resulted in a medication delay, extending a patient’s heart attack. In another example, a nurse informed a doctor of an incorrect final sponge count after a tubal ligation procedure. An x-ray later revealed that the missing sponge was in the patient.

When a patient is admitted to a hospital, he or she receives interaction from a team of professionals. Nursing staff and specialized doctors might each have their own role to play. Without accurate communication between each team member, the possibility of misdiagnosis or medication errors is easy to imagine. In addition, one can hardly expect medical records to be well managed when live communication between hospital personnel is fragmented. 

If that poor approach to communication extends to bedside manner, it may be difficult for a patient to make an informed consent. Yet an attorney knows that a patient has a right to be informed of the risks associated with any treatment, medication or procedure. Health care professionals who fail to perform this duty could be seen as negligent in the eyes of a jury.

As we mention on our website, medical errors remain a leading cause of death and injury in the United States. Yet it may take an experienced medical malpractice attorney to break the code of silence, depose witnesses, subpoena records and get to the bottom of what really went wrong. 

Source: Slate, “One of the hardest parts of being a nurse is dealing with bullying doctors,” Alexandra Robbins, April 29, 2015