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Overburdening of Nurses May Lead To Serious Infections in Patients

It’s a general rule in Illinois medical malpractice law, and it makes sense: when a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional acts negligently, and, as a result a patient is harmed, the hospital employing that healthcare provider may also be liable for the harm caused.

Healthcare institutions, such as hospitals, have the responsibility to supervise their staff to ensure that mistakes aren’t made, and to hire a suitable number of professionals who have enough knowledge to competently treat patients. As a result, in Illinois personal injury lawsuits, when a physician or other healthcare provider has committed medical malpractice, the hospital or healthcare institution may also be held liable for failing to properly train their employees or for failing to hire professionals who are qualified to do the work.

This concept may gain attention in the coming months, following a report by MSNBC which detailed the fact that heavy patient loads, as well as chronic burnout of nurses resulting from heavy workloads, have a direct relationship with the number of infections developed in patients under the nurses’ care.

MSNBC reports that, for every extra patient added to a nurse’s workload, there was roughly one additional hospital-acquired infection logged per 1,000 patients, as well as roughly one additional catheter-associated urinary tract infection per 1,000 patients and almost extra two surgical site infections per 1,000 patients, according to researchers from the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Although on the surface, the numbers may not appear to be critical, even one infection is too many in a profession dedicated to infection control and providing the best care for patients. These infections could potentially mean additional risk of serious illness or death for patients who catch those infections while in the hospital, and whose primary underlying concern for which they originally sought treatment is exacerbated by the new disease.

If there is, however, a bright side, it’s this: MSNBC’s coverage of the study reported that researchers found that reducing burnout cuts infections – and saves lives and money. In fact, reducing reports of burnout by 30 percent cut urinary tract infections by more than 4,000 and surgical site infections by more than 2,200, saving between $28 million and $69 million per year in estimated costs to treat those infections, said MSNBC.

What this means in practical application is that hospitals must hire an adequate number of nurses to ensure that their working staff does not become overburdened. Medical providers owe a duty of care to their patients. This extends to a hospital’s responsibility to make certain that its facility is properly staffed with competent healthcare professionals. When the duty owed to a patient is breached and the patient is harmed, the professional may be required to answer to an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit. If a patient falls victim to an infection that could have been avoided, and it can be shown that the hospital was negligent in guaranteeing a proper number of caregivers, the hospital may be liable for harm caused.

Medical malpractice injuries are devastating and potentially life altering. Our Chicago personal injury attorneys have handled a number of these types of cases. If you or a loved one have been harmed by a healthcare professional’s negligence, contact an attorney to better understand your rights under the law.