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Impairment on the job could constitute nursing negligence

Patients who are rushed into emergency surgery in an Oregon hospital expect that the doctors, nurses and other staff attending to them are competent, alert and in a position to perform their duties effectively and efficiently. Medical professionals often literally have the lives of their patients in their hands. Many things can lead to doctor or nursing negligence, but impairment should never be one of them.

Unfortunately, nurses are just as prone to alcohol and drug abuse as doctors are. Going by the numbers, nurses have a larger chance of injuring a patient than doctors do for two main reasons. First, there are more nurses than doctors. Second, they often have more contact with the patients on a day-to-day basis than doctors. If nurses fail to do their jobs, people can die or suffer serious injury.

A man in California was brought in for an emergency appendectomy. A nurse that was on call responded to a page to assist in the operation. His job was to monitor the patient's vital signs.

Another nurse noticed that the man was making mistakes and slurring his speech. As it turns out, he was intoxicated. Instead of telling someone that he was unable to assist because of his condition, he put the patient's life in jeopardy. The nurse is now facing criminal charges.

This kind of nursing negligence is unconscionable. The patient was fortunate that his health was allegedly not affected by the nurse's condition, but things could have turned out differently. Hospitals across the United States -- including here in Oregon -- do not require routine alcohol and drug testing at medical facilities and hospitals. 

Source:, "Alcohol Abuse In The Hospital: Nurse On Call Was 'Stumbling' Drunk During An Emergency Surgery", Samantha Olson, Feb. 25, 2016

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