As the large Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age, many industries face potential labor shortages. There were fewer people born in following generations, meaning fewer workers to replace the ones who are aging out of employment.
It’s a phenomenon that’s been called the “Silver Tsunami” in the popular media, and the health care industry may be one of the hardest hit.
In health care, not only are doctors, nurses, and other medical staff retiring with fewer health professionals to replace them, but the health system also faces rising demand as Baby Boomers experience more and more age-related health needs.
Add into the mix millions of people who now have insurance who previously didn’t, and the demand rises even more as the number of providers is shrinking.
One way the health care system is responding to the tidal wave of demand is through the use of nurses and nurse practitioners to supplement — or in some instances even replace — the care you might in the past have gotten from a physician. Chances are if you walk into an urgent care these days with a case of bronchitis, the person who sees you and prescribes you a course of antibiotics will be a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor.
Nurses go through significant clinical training and are educated in a range of sciences relevant to the human body. Most of the time, the care you get from a nurse or nurse practitioner will meet your needs, especially if your health issue is relatively minor. There’s nothing inherently bad about seeing a nurse practitioner instead of a physician for something like a winter cold or flu. However, nurses and nurse practitioners can make errors just as any doctor could, and the consequences of a mistake by a nurse or nurse practitioner can be just as dire as a mistake made by a physician.
When a nurse makes a mistake and causes someone injury or other harm, that mistake may amount to negligence and give rise to a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice isn’t limited to physicians — malpractice claims also can apply to nurses and other health care providers. If you or a family member has been the victim of an error by a nurse or nurse practitioner, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can discuss with you whether you might have a claim. In a medical malpractice claim, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Types of Nurses in Illinois
Illinois has three categories of nursing licenses, and each category is subject to different training and allowed to take on different responsibilities.
- Licensed Practical Nurse — This is the most basic level of nursing license. LPNs must have degrees from accredited nursing schools and are licensed for practice by the state nursing board. LPNs work under the direction of a registered nurse or a doctor. The scope of their practice generally includes providing assistance in the nursing process.
- Registered Nurse — Registered Nurses typically have a greater level of education and training than a Licensed Practical Nurse. RNs can observe patients and record symptoms to aid a doctor with diagnosis, and assist physicians with treatment. RNs can administer, but not prescribe, medication.
- Advanced Practice Nurse (Nurse Practitioner) — APNs have the highest level of nursing education and training. They can diagnose patients using advanced diagnostic skills, order tests and procedures, prescribe medications, and administer medications.
Common Nursing Errors
- Medication Errors — A medication error may be malpractice when a nurse administers the wrong drug or the wrong dose, or gives the prescribed drug to the wrong patient. It also may be malpractice to give a drug to a patient with a known allergy, such as to penicillin.
- Chart Errors — A nurse may fail to write information in a patient’s chart, write the wrong information, or mix up the charts. When that happens, it may be malpractice.
- Failure to Monitor Patient — When you are hospitalized, a nurse often is the person who monitors you to make sure your vital signs are OK and that you’re not having adverse reactions to medications or complications from procedures that require intervention. If a nurse doesn’t properly monitor a patient, no one may notice if the patient reacts to a medication or gets sicker. The consequences for the patient could be very serious.
- Errors in Medical Procedures — If a nurse makes an error inserting an IV or a catheter, or while drawing blood, or performing other types of procedures, harm to the patient could result.
- Failure to Communicate with Doctors — Most types of nurses work under the direction of a physician or in collaboration with a physician. When a nurse fails to communicate changes in a patient’s status to the physician, the patient may not get the right treatment and could get sicker or suffer harm.
- Failure to Seek Assistance — A nurse should recognize when the limits of the care he or she can provide have been reached and should seek assistance from a physician or a specialist who can provide the necessary care. If the nurse does not seek additional assistance or expertise when needed, the patient could suffer.
Consequences of Nursing Malpractice
When a nurse makes a mistake, that could result in the patient not getting the right treatment, getting delayed treatment, or getting misdiagnosed. If the patient’s medical condition isn’t properly treated because of the error, the patient may experience worsening symptoms that cause pain or serious illness. In some cases, nursing errors could be fatal.
If you have been injured as a result of a nurse’s negligence, you may have a medical malpractice claim. It’s best to speak with an experienced Chicago malpractice lawyer to determine this. We offer free legal consultations to evaluate your situation. Please call today.