Medical Malpractice is defined as the improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient by a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care professional. Let me help make this a little bit clearer for you and share a few interesting facts and figures about medical malpractice:
- The belief that malpractice suits are filed with the intention of making a lot of money is false. A study done between 51 New York hospitals showed that poor, Medicaid, or uninsured patients are significantly less likely to sue for malpractice.
- The ratio of the number of people that die due to preventable mistakes and the number of people who file a lawsuit is low. According to the Institute of Medicine, about 98,000 die each year due to preventable mistakes, and hundreds of thousands more are injured because of them. However, only one in eight people actually file a lawsuit.
- The states with the highest per capita malpractice payouts are New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. While the lowest states are North Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Indiana.
- It seems like a no-brainer that medical malpractice is preventable, but it’s the third leading cause of death in America. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 80% of events in the healthcare system are the result of human error.
- Malpractice suits usually deal with serious injury, and most people don’t bother suing over small accidents that don’t leave any lasting harm. In 75 different countries, 90% of malpractice suits involved permanent injury or death.
- Although nurses are usually in charge of nursing homes patients, many states have adopted special procedures for nursing home issues that don’t fall under malpractice.
- While the number of doctors has increased, some doctors still feel they’re handling too many patients. According to the Maryland Practice Team, 40% of doctors feel their patient volume can lead to errors.
- America spends $2.2 trillion a year on healthcare, and only $7.1 billion on defending claims and compensating victims. While that seems like a lot, it only accounts for 0.3 percent of healthcare costs.
- There are two common reasons for a malpractice suit. For inpatient errors, 34% of malpractice suits were because of surgical errors. For outpatient errors, 46% of malpractice suits were the result of errors in diagnoses.
- Only 7.6 percent of doctors found guilty in two or more malpractice suits were punished, and only 13 percent of doctors who were guilty in five or more malpractice suits were punished.
Wow, so that was a lot right? Yes it was! These interesting facts and figures may have you wondering how can I avoid being apart of a medical malpractice suit where I am defending my actions as a clinician. Well I am glad you asked! I would like to share 5 tips to help you remain free and clear of being a defendant of a medical malpractice case:
- Document, Document, Document– As a legal nurse consultant, I can’t tell you how many nurse are not documenting properly. Remember the things we were all taught in nursing school ” if it was documented, it wasn’t done!! It is very hard to go before a court and say “Oh I did it, but I forgot to document it”. I can tell you this is a automatic strike against you. Also make sure your documentation is clear and concise. It should paint a very clear picture of exactly what happened while that patient was in your care and not leave anything to the imagination.
- Check Physician Orders a Minimum of 3 Times Before Carrying Them Out- Listen I know how it is to be on a floor with 6 patients, all of them needing IV pushes, 3 of them are on the call light, and the physician is giving you 10 orders; can you say frustrating!! But we have to slow down and verify physician orders and if they do not seem right, don’t be afraid to question the physician on the orders. I have witnessed countless medical malpractice cases where the nurse carried out incorrect orders or orders that should have made a light bulb go off in their head and say ” I don’t think this is right “, and they didn’t verify the order and carried it out which caused serious damages to the patient.
- Write Your Notes Legibly– For some of us we are not yet at a stage where we have the privilege to document on our patients in a computerized charting system through our respective employer. So we are still hand writing our documentation. The barrier with that is that notes can become extremely hard to read at times thus leaving a lot of room for questions should a patient that you ever took care of decides to file a medical malpractice suit. Now while you can definitely explain to a court what the notes says while in the middle of a medical malpractice litigation suit, why send yourself through that headache of having to do that when you can just write legibly.
- Communicate– Communication is key! We know this to be true in every area of our life and this is no different within the healthcare profession. To prevent from making any type of error on a patient that you are caring for, you must communicate with all parties involved in their care and that includes but is not limited to the physician, certified nursing assistant, charge nurse, radiology, social worker etc. Everyone has to be on the same page with what is going on with the patient and notify each other of any critical information that is going on with the patient. I have seen numerous cases where the clinican indicates ” Well I didn’t do xyz because no one communicated this information to me. NOPE, that is not going to fly!! We are licensed professionals that have taken an oath and we must act as so, so we must COMMUNICATE.
- Always be a Student– Like everything around us, healthcare is changing. Which means we must change with it, we must stay updated on the latest and greatest, on the practices that were once in practice that has now been eliminated, etc. Attend conferences, take that class you employer is offering, really pay attention in those continuing education courses. We are ultimately responsible as licensed clinical professionals to provide care that is current, up to date, and the standard for our profession.
Nicole Thomas, RN, MSN, CCM, LNC
Health is defined as the state of being free from illness or injury. Health is what keeps all individuals in a state of harmony and balance because when our health is good, we are good. However, the state of being free from illness or injury is not equal across all spectrums of the human species. Some of you may deal with health related issues on a daily basis, occasionally, or rarely. Despite your frequency, it’s doubtful time allows you to look up interesting facts and figures on this topic. For instance, did you know that black women have a shorter life expectancy than White women by 5 years, 50% higher all-cause mortality rates, and death rates from major causes such as heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases, and diabetes that are often 2 to 3 times higher than those for Caucasian women? Knowledge is power, so here are a few interesting facts and figures about the health of minority women that make you go hmmm.
- Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer than African American women. But African Ameri- can women are more likely to die of this cancer because their cancers are often diagnosed later and at an advanced stage when they are harder to treat and cure. There is also some question about whether African American women have more aggressive tumors.
- African American women between the ages of 35-44, have an increased breast cancer death rate of more than twice the rate of White women in the same age group—20.02 deaths per 100,000 com- pared to 10.2 deaths per 100,000.
- Black women develop high blood pressure earlier in life and have higher average blood pressures compared with white women. About 37 percent of black women have high blood pressure.
- About 5.8% of all white women, 7.6% of black women, and 5.6% of Mexican American women have coronary heart disease.
- A 2011 Journal of Women’s study indicated that 57 percent of Latina women, 40 percent of African American women, and 32 percent of white women had three or more risk factors for having a heart attack.
- According to the article published by the Diabetes Sisters, the prevalence of diabetes is at least 2-4 times higher among African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, and Asian/Pacific Islander women than among white women.
- One in four African American women over 55 years of age has diabetes.
So, which fact do you find most interesting?
Breast Cancer: A Resource Guide for Women. (2009). Retrieved from:http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/assets/pdf/checked/bcrg2005.pdf
Pryor, David. Diabetes in African American Women. Retrieved from:http://www.blackwomenshealth.com/blog/diabetes-in-african-american-women/.
Women of Color Have More Risk Factors for Heart Disease. (2012). Retrieved from:http://www.hhs.gov/ash/news/2012/20120206.html.
Women and Diabetes. (2012). Retrieved from:https://diabetessisters.org/women-diabetes.
In the United States, race once defined an individual’s level of freedom, including where they could enter, sit, and eat. Today, with African Americans at a higher risk than White Americans for obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, race also defines the quality of healthcare, making health disparities in African Americans the true silent killer.
Statistics from the American Heart Association and Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases in African Americans. However, the link between race and health are obscured, and there is not much conversation dedicated to eliminating the socioeconomic and cultural barriers that make African Americans a target for death by disease.
So the question is what should we as healthcare professionals implement to address socioeconomic and cultural barriers that contribute to the healthcare disparities in African Americans and other minority populations? Should we continue to research different treatment regimens that can improve the overall health of African Americans and other minority groups? Or should we continue to educate these populations through traditional patient education? The Answer is No! In order for us to get something that we have never had, that means we have to do something that we have never done. The solution to this issue must extend beyond medicine, and instead be addressed by community leaders, community health providers, and minority healthcare professionals so race can be a category and not a barrier to quality healthcare.
There is undoubtedly a necessity to increase the level of cultural sensitivity among physicians, nurses, & other healthcare personnel; recognize unfavorable socioeconomic and cultural barriers as a preexisting condition; improve the community surrounding African Americans & other minority patients; and increase the number of minority healthcare workers. Implementing these actions will begin the process of closing the gap of socioeconomic and cultural barriers that contribute to the healthcare disparities in African Americans and other minority populations.
As part of an ongoing commitment to develop a diverse workforce that reflects the patients and communities it serves, CVS Health announced strategic partnerships with two leading national organizations whose mission is to advance the multicultural nursing populations in the United States: the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN).
Through these newly formed alliances, CVS Health, the nation’s largest pharmacy innovation company, will establish workforce development programs and strategies that facilitate multicultural talent acquisition to further develop the company’s own diverse nursing populations through education, training and colleague engagement. With a unique continuum of health care products and services, CVS Health supports a broad nursing workforce that includes: Nurse Practitioners who see patients through the company’s MinuteClinic network; Nurse Patient Care Specialists who serve the company’s specialty patients; Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) Nurses who provide in-home education and infused medication therapies; and Patient Education Nurses who deliver disease education and case management to patients over the phone.
Additionally, these partnerships will enable CVS Health to increase the number of internships and scholarships that the company extends to multicultural candidates.
“At CVS Health, we recognize the strong connection between a culturally diverse nursing workforce and the ability to provide quality, culturally competent patient care,” said David Casey, Vice President, Workforce Strategies, and Chief Diversity Officer at CVS Health. “We value the multicultural communities, customers and patients we serve and we look forward to working closely with NBNA and NAHN, as we continue to help bridge the current nursing shortage in the United States and enhance access to quality care to underserved populations.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be more than one million open positions for registered nurses across the country by 2022. Moreover, while U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that ethnic minority groups account for 37 percent of the U.S. population, industry research shows that nurses from minority backgrounds represent only 19 percent of the RN workforce, with African-American and Hispanic nurses representing 6% and 3%, respectively.
“CVS Health and NBNA share the common goal of supporting the development of African American nurses which is reflective of our nation’s diversity,” said Eric J. Williams, DNP, RN, CNE, President, NBNA. “This new partnership will allow our two organizations to work collaboratively to increase access to care and improve the health of the communities we serve.”
“We’re grateful to CVS Health for partnering with NAHN to help achieve our mission of improving the quality of health care for Hispanic consumers,” said Celia Besore, Executive Director, NAHN. “We look forward to working together to provide equal access to educational, professional and economic opportunities for Hispanic nurses in our country.”
As one of the largest employers of pharmacists and nurse practitioners, CVS Health is committed to helping advance the education of talented students pursuing careers in the field. The CVS Health Foundation has provided scholarships to pharmacy students for many years and, in 2016, the Foundation will begin awarding funding to nursing and physician assistants schools to support the pipeline of much-needed nurse practitioners in local communities across the country.
About CVS Health
CVS Health is a pharmacy innovation company helping people on their path to better health. Through its more than 9,500 retail pharmacies, more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, a leading pharmacy benefits manager with more than 70 million plan members, a dedicated senior pharmacy care business serving more than one million patients per year, and expanding specialty pharmacy services, the Company enables people, businesses and communities to manage health in more affordable, effective ways. This unique integrated model increases access to quality care, delivers better health outcomes and lowers overall health care costs. Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at https://www.cvshealth.com.
No one can say nursing is a stagnant profession. Even freshly minted grads can feel they are scrambling to keep up with new procedures, technologies, treatments, and processes. If you’re a nurse, you might start to wonder what skills you will need to succeed and stay current in the coming years.
There are a few qualities shared by all successful nurses. Being an excellent multitasker, having empathy, and being nearly obsessed with details never failed a nurse. No matter what your specialty, your location, or your aspirations, experts agree that a few skills in your wheelhouse will not only advance your career, but also help you satisfy your goals of being the best nurse for your patients.
“The first thing you have to have if you want to be the best nurse possible is you have to really want to do it,” says Leigh Goldstein, assistant professor of clinical nursing at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing. “You really have to want to be a nurse and not just bring people pills and plump pillows. To get there, you have to put in the hours and put in the study. There’s that little thing in you that tells you, ‘This is it,’” says Goldstein. “It makes learning all the other skills easier.”
LaDonna Northington, DNP, RN, BC, professor of nursing and the director of the traditional nursing program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, agrees that nurses need a passion for the job. “This is not for the faint of heart,” she says.
Looking ahead, here are some of the essential skills nurses will need to meet job demands at any career juncture.
Develop Critical Thinking/Critical Reasoning
The best nurse thinks outside the box. Adapting to changing situations, unique patient presentations, unusual medication combinations, and a rotating team takes awareness. Assessing and evaluating the whole picture by using the critical thinking developed in school and on the job is essential to success.
“Nursing is not like working in a bank,” says Goldstein. “It’s not 9 to 5. It’s always a unique set of circumstances. You have to tailor and adjust the care you deliver based on the picture the patient is giving you.”
According to Northington, nothing in nursing is static. Nurses can’t usually just treat one patient issue—they have to determine how the patient’s diagnosis or disease has affected them across the lifespan, she says. And nurses have to consider not just the best choice for the patient and the best option for the nurse right now, but they also have to consider those things in light of the city they are in, the timing, and the resources they have at hand or that are available to them.
Make Friends with Technology
Nursing moves fast, but technological advances are sometimes even faster. While new nurses might lack years of direct patient experience, they often have essential technological familiarity. “Most nurses are probably aware that the world of electronics has just taken over,” says Barbara Vaughn, RN, BSN, BS, CCM, chief nursing officer of Baylor Medical Center in Carrollton, Texas. “The more senior nurses who didn’t grow up in the technology world tend to struggle more than nurses who grew up with that.”
With apps that allow nurses to determine medication dosages and interactions and websites that allow patients access to electronic health records, technology is an integral part of modern nursing. “Technology is changing how we practice and will change how nurses function in the future,” says Vaughn.The benefits are incredible. Instead of having to make the time-consuming drive into the ER when needed for an emergency, a specialist might now be able to save precious minutes by first examining a patient remotely with the help of monitors and even robotic devices. Nurses will have to adapt to this new way of doing things.
Nurses have to practice with technology to gain a fluent understanding, says Vaughn. Vaughn, who is studying for her PhD, says she didn’t grow up with online training as the norm, so when her new classes required online work, she wasn’t prepared. Realizing this could be a hindrance, Vaughn asked newer nurses about how to do things, and she practiced navigating the system until she became better at it.
Whether you are accessing patient records, navigating online requirements for a class, or learning a new medication scanning program, technology will improve your work day and help you take better care of your patients. In the meantime, Vaughn just recommends playing around with the computer when faced with something new. In her own department, Vaughn recalls some nurses who were especially stressed out about learning the new electronic health records system. With training and practice, they excelled. “They were later identified as superusers for their unit,” says Vaughn with a laugh.
Adapt to the Broader Picture
With all these developments comes new and greater responsibility.
“As an inpatient nurse, you used to worry about the 4 to 6 days when the patient was under your care,” says Vaughn. “Now if you are in a hospital based setting, you are going to be more involved in patient population health.” That means an inpatient nurse not only has to get the whole story of what happened before the patient arrived at the hospital, but also think about working with the care team to give specific instructions for when patients get home that will be practical.
“The more specialized medicine gets, the more fragmented health care becomes,” says Northington. Technology and that broad view can help reign that all in—and nurses need to know how the puzzle pieces fit together and where and how patients are receiving care.
“More patients will be followed in nontraditional health care settings,” says Vaughn. “Our world and the world we know is going to change,” says Vaughn of the health care industry. With more patients being followed by health care centers in easily accessed sites like Walmart and Walgreens, telemedicine is going to become more important to understand and to navigate.
Practice Effective Communication
Thirty years ago, communication about patient care was effective, but certainly not at today’s level, says Northington. “We have to communicate,” she says. “You have to ask, ‘What do you know that I don’t know that can help this patient?’ or ‘Are these therapies contradictory?’ Nurses are in that integral place to facilitate that interprofessional education and communication.”
Good communication isn’t always easy. Beth Boynton, RN, MS, author of Successful Nurse Communication, says the most effective communication is based in speaking up and in listening.
Especially in fast-paced and dynamic health care settings, the underlying interpersonal relationships can have a huge impact on how colleagues communicate and relate to each other. Nurses need to not only recognize the dynamics at play, but also learn how to work within the environment.
“We all think this is easy,” says Boynton, “but we have to recognize this is harder than meets the eye. Be patient with the learning curve.” Nurses might be assertive about speaking up for their patients’ needs, but not for their own, explains Boynton. So, as nurses look to the future, they should be mindful of not only fine-tuning their ability to speak up, but also listening to both patients and colleagues in return without judgment so everyone can work towards the best possible outcome.
“The nurse of the future has to stay committed to learning,” says Northington. “Take what the research is saying and use the best practices. Ask the questions like, ‘Why are we doing it that way?’ and ‘What can I do differently that will produce a better outcome?’”
To be the best nurse, you must stay current in the newest developments. Take the time to learn new procedures, but also recognize where your skills need updating. For example, if you know you’ll need to deal with chest tubes, don’t just assume you’ll know what to do when the time comes. Make an active effort to gain current experience.
Develop Mentoring Relationships
Every nurse needs a mentor. It doesn’t matter what your role is, how many years of experience you have, or even how many months you have been practicing. If you want to advance and learn the intangible skills needed to excel in nursing, you need to actively cultivate a mentoring relationship. Nurse mentors are often found at work, through networks, or within professional organizations.
Refine Your Personal Compass
A little bit of a thick skin will do wonders for any career nurse. “You have to defend your patient from everyone and take care of them,” says Goldstein. That means when a physician makes a call you disagree with or you overhear an unfriendly comment, you need to speak up when it matters and let it roll when it doesn’t.
And some of the personal work nurses have to do isn’t easy, including reflecting on and adjusting for any personal feelings or prejudices they have about patients in an open and honest manner. “We need to be able to take care of people no matter what their circumstances or color or what they did to get here,” says Goldstein. “You can’t treat patients differently. You need to take care of them and not make a judgment.”
Prepare for the Unexpected
You never know what your day will bring, so lots of personal reflection, discussions with others in your profession, and cultivating skills can help you when you are faced with something you’ve never had to deal with before.
“I think whether you are starting out as a new nurse or you are a seasoned nurse, nursing care is constantly changing, and being fl exible to those changes is paramount,” says Princess Holt, BSN, RN, a nurse in the invasive cardiology department at Baylor Medical Center in Carrollton, Texas. It’s not easy, she says, to constantly adapt to new approaches and new practices, but nurses need to sharpen their focus. “When I get frustrated, I always go back to put myself in the mindset of my patient I am caring for or of my physician who is making this order or of the family I am taking care of to find new ways of looking at it. It grounds me and helps me understand.”
Developing all the coping skills to deal with job stress is a personal approach that nurses will cultivate as they go.
“New nurses don’t always take care of themselves and the emotional baggage you take with you,” says Goldstein. “You have to incorporate those experiences into a coping strategy that you have to develop on your own. Every nurse needs to fi gure out what they need to do to handle that.” And if you aren’t able to really learn how to cope, nurses must have the skills to either recognize that some kind of career shift is necessary (maybe even just moving from the ER to postpartum, suggests Goldstein) or to be open to hearing it when others recognize it.
Recognize Your Private Life Impacts Your Career
Nurses have to realize their career choice is 24/7. And while you have to balance your life and leave the hospital behind, you also have to somehow adapt to always being a nurse first. Family picnics can turn into a mini diagnosis session, neighbors might ask you to look at a child’s rash, and your private life can impact your job very directly in a way that won’t happen in other professions. “Nurses are held to a higher standard than the average citizen,” says Goldstein.
Learn Where to Learn
Yes, nurses in school learn the hands-on nursing skills like hand hygiene and infection control, says Goldstein, but, like any nursing skill, mastering them takes time.
Some hospitals have new nurse orientation programs that help new nurses acclimate to the setting, but if you don’t have that option, rely on your own observations, ask questions, and take classes to help get you up to speed. When you’re on the job, watch others to see how they incorporate things like patient safety into their routine interactions with patients. And Holt, who has worked in departments from ER to interventional radiology, says moving around builds skills. “I have seen it all,” she says, “and there is still more to see.”
Put It All Together
When nurses consider all the skills they need to succeed, some are easier to gain than others. “You need to understand what goes on behind all the mechanics,” says Northington. “It’s the knowledge behind the skills you need. They can teach nurses things. Nurses have the rest of their lives to learn things. We need nurses who know how to think, to problem solve, [and] who know when they are in over their heads to call for help. The most dangerous nurse is one who doesn’t ask a question.”
And nurses must keep moving forward and adapting even when the pace seems relentless. “We’ve come a long way,” says Northington. “And in 20 years, nursing won’t look like it looks now. Nursing is one of the best careers because it’s always evolving.”
Vision is arguably one of our most valuable senses and our eyes contain some of the hardest working muscles in the human body. For example, an hour of reading a book takes nearly 10,000 coordinated movements of the external muscles of the eye. When our head is in motion, our eyes are constantly readjusting themselves to retain the proper focus necessary for accurate vision.
When it comes to this important bodily function, minorities seem to have less problems with their eyesight in some categories when compared to their Caucasian counterparts. The American Academy of Ophthalmology gives an overview of the causes of visual impairment and legal blindness in the United States according to demographics of Caucasians (or non-Hispanic whites), African Americans, and Hispanics:
CAUSES OF LEGAL BLINDNESS
Age-related macular degeneration (46.6%)
Diabetic retinopathy (6.9%)
Diabetic retinopathy (8.3%)
Age-related macular degeneration (4.2%)
Age-related macular degeneration (23.7%)
Diabetic retinopathy (18.4%)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States are primarily age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, followed by cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Other vision problems are most frequently associated with refractive errors: myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (distorted vision at all distances), and presbyopia (loss of the ability to focus up close), which usually occurs between the ages of 40 to 50 years old.
Disorders such as amblyopia (sometimes referred to as “lazy eye” and most commonly seen in children) and strabismus (an imbalance in the positioning of the two eyes), which can lead to eyes that cross (esotropia) or turn out (exotropia). All of these can lead to visual impairment, which breaks down into these categories for different demographic groups:
CAUSES OF VISUAL IMPAIRMENT
Age-related macular degeneration (28.1%)
Diabetic retinopathy (4.7%)
Diabetic retinopathy (12.2%)
Age-related macular degeneration (7.8%)
Diabetic retinopathy (15.0%)
Age-related macular degeneration (14.5%)
Although nothing can stop the hands of time for age-related conditions that affect our valuable vision, certain lifestyle choices can influence the health and aging of our eyes. Number one, don’t smoke tobacco, period, followed by maintaining a good diet, regular exercise, and monitoring and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Some of these practices can also help to prevent the onset of diabetes, which contributes to diabetic retinopathy.
Some studies suggest eating more fish can greatly reduce your risk of contracting age-related macular degeneration. Research reveals that those who consumed higher amounts of fish, more than two servings per week, were 40% less likely to contract macular degeneration compared to those who ate less than one serving per week.
For all vision problems, another way to protect your vision is to wear good, high-quality sunglasses to prevent harmful UV rays from affecting our eyes. Prevention and protection can help you have better eyesight even as we age.