Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession(5)10 Oct 97 PDF Version

Quick Summary: If constant close monitoring has not been ordered for the patient, it is not neglect of a patient to leave the patient briefly unattended.

   It was unfortunate the patient tried to get up from the shower chair, fell and broke her wrist. But the aide who at the time was trying to find some towels was not guilty of neglecting her. DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF FLORIDA, 1997.

   The aide was told by the charge nurse to bathe several nursing home patients. He bathed one, then got a second patient into the shower chair. There were no towels left where he had found them earlier, so he asked the nurse where more were to be found.

   The nurse told him it was his job, not hers, to look for towels. The aide pushed the patient back into her room, still in the shower chair with a belt fastened around her waist. He assumed, incorrectly, the nurse knew he was looking for towels, and would keep an eye on the patient.

   The patient was found on the floor of her room with a fractured wrist. The aide was disciplined by the state authorities for neglect of a patient.

   The District Court of Appeal of Florida disagreed. Leaving this patient briefly unattended under the circumstances was not neglect as neglect is defined by law. The court said it could not reasonably be expected, before the fact, that this patient would suffer harm by being left alone, so the aide was not responsible for her unfortunate injury. A.O. vs. Dept. of Health and Rehab., 696 So. 2d 1358 (Fla. App., 1997).

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