"It was the middle of the night, and Laura Silverthorn, a nurse at a hospital in Washington, knew her patient was in danger.
The boy had a shunt in his brain to drain fluid, but he was vomiting and had an extreme headache, two signs that the shunt was blocked and fluid was building up. When she paged the on-call resident, who was asleep in the hospital, he told her not to worry.
After a second page, Ms. Silverthorn said, “he became arrogant and said, ‘You don’t know what to look for — you’re not a doctor.’ ”
He ignored her third page, and after another harrowing hour she called the attending physician at home. The child was rushed into surgery.
“He could have died or had serious brain injury,” Ms. Silverthorn said, “but I was treated like a pest for calling in the middle of the night.”
Her experience is borne out by surveys of hospital staff members, who blame badly behaved doctors for low morale, stress and high turnover. (Ms. Silverthorn said she had been brought to tears so many times that she was trying to start her own business and leave nursing.)
Recent studies suggest that such behavior contributes to medical mistakes, preventable complications and even death.
“It is the health care equivalent of road rage,” said Dr. Peter B. Angood, chief patient safety officer at the Joint Commission, the nation’s leading independent hospital accreditation agency.
A survey of health care workers at 102 nonprofit hospitals from 2004 to 2007 found that 67 percent of respondents said they thought there was a link between disruptive behavior and medical mistakes, and 18 percent said they knew of a mistake that occurred because of an obnoxious doctor. (The author was Dr. Alan Rosenstein, medical director for the West Coast region of VHA Inc., an alliance of nonprofit hospitals.)[Continue Story]
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