Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession(4)11 Aug 96  PDF Version

  Quick Summary: A nursing student was asked to restrain a violent HIV-positive patient in the emergency room.

   A student at a commercial vocational school specializing in the training and placement of medical support personnel was placed in the emergency room of an acute care medical center as one of his clinical assignments. According to the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, it was his clinical instructor from the school who decided to place him in the ER.

   Only a couple of hours into his first day in the ER, someone asked the student to help restrain a violent patient. The court noted it could not tell, but it did not matter; who had asked the student to do this. The court held both the school and the hospital liable for what was to happen.

   The student had not been informed the patient was HIV positive and had AIDS. It also appeared the student had not been adequately trained in universal precautions. The patient’s blood and saliva, from the patient’s lacerated lip, were, as the court stated, "projected" into the student’s eyes and mouth while the patient was being restrained. Shortly after this incident, the student tested positive for HIV. He filed suit against the hospital and his school for damages for negligence.

   The court upheld the student’s right to sue for damages. The court assumed the student’s training in universal bloodborne pathogen precautions and restraint techniques was inadequate, and believed it had not been a sensible decision to have placed the student in the ER or to have allowed him to become involved in restraining this particular patient.

   The only defense raised by the hospital and nursing school was the contention the student was an employee, who, as an employee, could only file for worker’s compensation for medical expenses and time loss as his exclusive legal remedy, rather than being able to sue. The court ruled he was not an employee, and could sue for damages. Dustin vs. DHCI Home Health Services, Inc., 673 So. 2d 356 (La. App., 1996).

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