In a web blog called, 5 'Must Haves' for a Successful Nursing Career, “patience” is listed as # 1. They explain,
You must have a huge internal storage house of patience in order to be a nurse. In a single shift, you may have to handle a belligerent patient, an angry family member, a moody peer or supervisor, and a patient who has several “intestinal accidents.” And that’s all while having to do your “normal” work tasks.
Nurses deserve our eternal respect, that’s for sure. Imagine what they must endure every day. But here’s what they should never have to tolerate: negligence by their own health care institution, which turns a patient nurse into an actual patient.
Last month, NPR reported a story called, “Hospitals Fail To Protect Nursing Staff From Becoming Patients”:
According to surveys by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are more than 35,000 back and other injuries among nursing employees every year, severe enough that they have to miss work. Nursing assistants and orderlies each suffer roughly three times the rate of back and other musculoskeletal injuries as construction laborers. In terms of sheer number of these injuries, BLS data show that nursing assistants are injured more than any other occupation, followed by warehouse workers, truckers, stock clerks and registered nurses.
Shocking. But it can be even worse. Take the case of Nina Pham, one of two nurses infected with Ebola in October while treating Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital. You may recall our earlier coverage of Ebola, and of the National Nurses Union protests over poor protection for nurses treating Ebola patients, including the nurse who blew the whistle specifically on Texas Health Presbyterian hospital. Pham has now filed a lawsuit. If her complaint is true, the hospital’s negligent care of its own nurses was far worse than we knew. According to her story,
She had never been trained to handled infectious diseases, never been told anything about Ebola, how to treat Ebola, or how to protect herself as a nurse treating an Ebola patient. The hospital had never given her any ... training or guidance about Ebola. All Nina knew about Ebola is what she had heard on television.
According to the petition filed with the court, when Pham "asked her manager what she should do to protect herself," one of her superiors "went to the internet, searched Google, printed off information regarding what Nina was supposed to do, and handed Nina the printed paper."…
Before entering Duncan's room, Pham learned what she could from the internet. Ebola is transmitted via body fluids like blood, vomit, and diarrhea, all of which are often produced in excess as the virus progresses. Casual passersby are not likely to have close contact with these substances, but for caretakers and nurses, they are difficult to avoid.
So Pham took several precautions, according to the lawsuit: an isolation gown, a surgical mask, double gloves, and booties. But her hair and neck were left uncovered. The suit also alleges that because the hospital did not give her disposable scrubs or other clothes, "she had to wear the scrubs she wore that first day home, taking out of the hospital clothing that was potentially carrying the virus."
[T]he suit alleges that they faced "circumstances ... that were more like what one would expect in a third-world country." With no designated teams to dispose of all the biohazardous waste that accumulates with an Ebola patient, the nurses tied up Duncan's soiled sheets, where they piled up in the room next to Duncan's. They poured bleach on contaminated materials and wrapped dirty sheets inside of clean ones, according to [her attorney].
This is just what the whistle-blowing nurse said was happening back in October. Pham's complaint goes on, including how the hospital used her as a PR tool without her consent. And of course, how she came close to death herself. See more here.
Some have already written that this case could be a “Landmark For Patient Safety,” although the hospital system appears to be fighting Pham. One issue the hospital system is bound to bring up: whether workers compensation should apply, in which case a lawsuit would be prohibited:
Dallas attorney Michael Stewart, who heads the health care litigation department for the firm Godwin Lewis, said Pham’s claims about Texas Health Resources not properly training its employees or providing proper equipment could fall under workers’ compensation claims. If workers’ compensation applies, Stewart said, it doesn’t matter if the hospital system was negligent.
Stewart said he anticipates “quite a dispute” about whether workers’ compensation applies to just the hospital or the parent company. Even if workers’ compensation claims apply, which would also cover some ongoing health problems, Stewart said Pham must prove, among other things, that Texas Health Resources “totally ignored on purpose” the risk of Ebola and that it was “reasonably foreseeable” that someone with the disease would end up at the hospital.
Charla Aldous, Pham’s attorney, said she expected “a lot of hurdles” when she filed the case. Aldous said that she will argue that the hospital system was not Pham’s employer.
“This is not a compensation case. THR is not her employer, Presbyterian is,” Aldous said. “It’s not about the care she received. It’s that she shouldn’t have needed the care in the first place.”
Let’s hope she gets around workers comp. Anyone who’s been listening to NPR or following Pro Publica in the past couple days knows what I’m talking about: workers comp has become a horror show for injured workers in this country. Nina Pham, and all injured workers, clearly deserve better than that.