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Patient’s Death Blamed on NorCal Nurses' Strike

Last week one of the largest nursing strikes took place in Northern California. 33 hospitals and approximately 23,000 nurses were involved in this monumental protest. Due to the amount of nurses on strike, many replacement nurses were called in to care for the patients. However, one nurse made a fatal mistake which is receiving a lot of press. I hate to bring these issues up, but I feel I need to share the full spectrum of the nursing world to nursing students and to those getting their ADN degree.

The Associated Press has an article on BusinessWeek.com reporting about this incident and the events surrounding it. “A replacement nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland mistakenly hooked the nutrient solution up to an IV for 66-year-old Judith Ming, instead of to the tube leading to Ming’s stomach, the Oakland Tribune reports… Hospital officials have acknowledged Ming, 66, died from a medical error but have not described what happened pending an investigation into Ming’s death. Police have said only that a replacement nurse gave her a non-prescribed dosage of a drug known to be lethal in the manner in which was administered.”

For once, I actually do not have any words to say. My heart aches for the deceased’s family; death is especially hard to accept when it could have been easily avoided. I obviously was not present when this event occurred so I cannot comment on who’s at fault or why this happened. I just know that all humans make errors and in the medical field, these mistakes are magnified to painful proportions.

“Union officials have questioned the qualifications of the replacement nurses that were brought in by the hospital during the lockout. The California Nurses Association provided a negotiation update to its members in which it referred to the improperly administered supplement as ‘grossly negligent’ and an ‘error so outlandish and bizarre’ that police had questioned the temporary nurse involve,” reported the AP.

An article in the San Francisco Gate reported Dr. Steve O’Brien, vice president of medical affairs at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, as saying “the death was not the result of bringing in replacement nurses during the lockout. All of the replacements – including the one involved in Saturday’s death – have the needed training and experience for the job.”

It’s a shame that one nurse makes a huge mistake and it becomes a reflection of the entire occupation. Also, the mission of the strike is also compromised with this tragic event. Nursing is one career that everyone has an opinion about based on their own hospital experiences. I think the main thing that ADN nurses can take away from this story is to be cautious, be aware and always double check your work.

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