The nation recently received the shocking news that a healthcare facility in Arizona, unknown to the rest of the staff, hired a nurse who would later rape and abuse a young woman who had had quadriplegia in an unresponsive state for 20 years. The abuse went undetected until the girl gave birth to a baby boy, and hospital staff said they had no idea that she was pregnant. The nurse who matched the DNA of the child, Nathan Sutherland, lost his license and is in jail awaiting trial for his crimes.
Many expressed disbelief and concern that the health care facility, Hacienda Healthcare had no idea that the victim was pregnant. Her primary care physician also claims he had no knowledge of the pregnancy.
It is likely that the healthcare system will complete more investigations into the matter and more details will come to light. However, this disturbing case highlights a concern for many families with loved ones in the hospital or long-term care: how can we assure their safety when we are not around?
Tips for Patient Safety
Informed family members play a vital role in keeping their loved ones safe in a hospital setting. Keep in mind that loved ones are part of the caregiving team. As such, you are entitled to ask questions and advocate for your loved one’s safety. Following some simple tips can help protect your loved one as they recover in a hospital or receive care in a long-term or transitional facility.
- Do not be afraid to be an advocate for your loved one. Raise concerns when you have them, ask questions when you are unsure, and speak up if you suspect something is amiss.
- Wash your hands frequently when visiting with your loved one, and ask providers and caregivers to do the same.
- Know what medications your loved one is on and feel free to double check them to make sure dosage and type of medication are correct.
- Have a plan for discharge and know what to expect from your first few days at home. Ask questions and plan for follow up visits.
Tips for Patients
Patients play an important role in their own health care delivery. Following some basic procedures can help maximize safety during a hospital stay.
- Communicate your questions and concerns. If it helps, write them down while they are fresh in your mind and bring them to an appointment. Talk to your doctor until you get all the answers you need. If you require clarification, ask for it.
- Understand your procedure or treatment. Make sure you understand all the options available to you and the risks and benefits of each. Questions might include how to prepare, how the procedure will go, and how long it will take to recover.
- Ask for help. During your stay in a hospital, you may feel tired, fatigued, or ill. Medications and procedures can have a variety of side effects. Do not attempt to do things your body is not ready for. Use a call button and have a nurse provide assistance.
- File a report. If you experience any mistreatment from the staff, ask to file a report to a charge nurse or ask a family member for help.
- Wash your hands. If recovering from an illness or injury, your immune system might be weaker than usual. Wash your hands frequently to prevent getting sick and delaying your recovery.
Both patients and their family members play an important role in assuring patient safety. Ask questions, speak up about your concerns, and always be aware of your surroundings. If you experience any mistreatment or suspect maltreatment of a loved one, report it as soon as possible and take steps to remove a loved one from any dangerous situation. Then, contact a Phoenix medical malpractice attorney at Begam Marks & Traulsen, P.A. to schedule your free consultation. Our Phoenix injury lawyers have helped victims of malpractice since 1957; call us today.