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Nurse Tip–Medical Errors: One Patient’s Story

Last month we wrote about the high prevalence of medical errors in the U.S. A study earlier this year in the medical journal BMJ stated that preventable medical errors accounted for 250,000 deaths per year, making it the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer.

As we said previously, this does not come as a surprise to those of us in health care. We commonly see medical errors, and at Everybody Needs A Nurse, the ramifications of these errors often bring clients to our doors.

One of these clients is Eldridge* a gentleman in his early 70s who had been in very good health his whole life. He lived with his wife Christine in very nice, well maintained home. He was retired, but she was still working and they spent their free time travelling.

Eldridge started to have severe pain in his abdomen, and his physician diagnosed diverticulitis with a fistula, which required surgery.

The surgery went successfully and the couple anticipated a full recovery.

But the follow-up plan in the hospital, stating that the wound dressing should be changed twice a day, was misread as stating it should be changed every two days.

After a few days of this inadequate wound care, Eldridge developed a fever and the hospital staff found an infection had developed. This infection became very serious, required another two weeks of hospital care, with powerful antibiotic IVs. He almost died.

Eventually he recovered, but remained weak and still had pain from the wound. He was unable to travel and he and Christine both missed their old lifestyle.

Eldridge and Christine came to Everybody Needs A Nurse a few years after this event, when he needed a stent put in his heart. He was still suffering from weakness and they were worried about the stress this procedure might have on his system.

And of course they were worried about another medical error.

When we heard their story, we were saddened and frustrated because this mistake could easily have been prevented if they had an expert looking at the situation.

Expert patient advocates solve the problem of medical errors. In our clients, the rate of medical errors in the year after hiring us, dropped to zero.

When we came on board after the event, we talked to the couple, generating relevant questions for their doctor and attended the appointment with them to be their second pair of eyes and ears.

When he had his procedure, we were able to look at the chart to see that there were no mistakes and to make sure everyone–Eldridge and Christine, the hospital staff, Eldridge’s primary doctor–were all on the same page.

Afterwards, Eldridge and Christine thanked us and said they were so relieved to have someone watching over them.

*not their real names