Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)12 Dec 98

Quick Summary: Not giving a patient non-skid hospital slippers and telling the patient to walk in his socks is a professional nursing judgment which can be questioned in a lawsuit, even for the patient just to walk from a chair to a gurney cart.

   The decision to let a patient walk just a few feet unassisted can also be questioned, if the patient happens to fall and sustain serious injuries. COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO, 1997.

   The Court of Appeals of Ohio handed down its ruling in June 1997, but the opinion was not published until late October, 1998. The court ruled that when a patient falls, is seriously injured and files a lawsuit, even the simplest aspects of the patient’s care can come under the court’s scrutiny.

   In this case a nurse worked with a patient in an examination room to prepare him to be taken to another room for a colonoscopy. Because it was cold the nurse told him to keep his socks on with his hospital gown, and did not get hospital slippers for him.

   Hospital slippers, unlike a patient’s own personal socks, have a non-skid bottom surface.

   When the orderly came to get the patient, he told the patient to walk just a few feet to the gurney. Two feet from the gurney the orderly told the patient to turn around and go back and get his pillow for the ride on the gurney. In turning around to go back for his pillow, the patient slipped, lost his balance, hit his head on the wall and struck his elbow on the floor. He sustained a comminuted fracture of his elbow which required surgery and extensive physical therapy.

   The patient filed suit against the hospital. The court was highly critical of the care this patient received. However, because the lapses in judgment which led to this patient’s injuries occurred in a health care context, the court believed the case should be considered under the rules for medical malpractice, for which there happens to be a one-year statute of limitations in Ohio. Long v. Warren General Hospital, 700 N.E. 2d 364 (Ohio App., 1997).