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Newsflash Thursday

Episode 1: The Case of the Pregnant Patient

Imagine…you go to work tomorrow, it’s a regular day on the job. You are caring for a completely dependent, cognitively impaired patient who has been in the facility for over 10 years. She cannot walk, talk or care for herself. She is totally dependent on you and your team. You clock in and begin your daily routine when suddenly, your patient begins to give birth. Join me as I discuss this case.

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"We didn't know she was pregnant."

- Hacienda Healthcare nurse to 911 operator

How was this missed? How did this happen? Who was responsible? How do we go on from here? These are all important questions for healthcare workers to consider after such a horrendous crime. We can use this as an opportunity to point fingers and display outrage, or we can use it to look at our own practice and see if we can find ways to improve.

Quite simply, dependent patients are at risk. Anyone who has to rely on another person for daily care is at risk of being manipulated, abused, neglected or exploited in any number of ways. And the abuse is often committed by those providing the care, because they are the ones in frequent contact with the patient. But even though we know this, we often drop our guard and forget to watch our patients for signs of abuse…especially those that are unable to tell us when something has gone horribly wrong. We need to remember that all patients, in all settings need to be kept safe and that is one of our primary jobs in healthcare. Don’t let routine and boredom cloud your observation skills because your patient depends on you to notice the things they can’t tell you.

This is not an isolated case, unfortunately. There have been many instances where medical professionals have committed crimes against dependent patients in their care. Here are just a few:

Tampa nurse accused of sexually battering patient

Nurse pleads guilty in multiple sexual assault cases

Doctor suspected of hundreds of sexual assaults

Pediatrician sentenced for multiple counts of pediatric sexual assault

Nurse accused of punching 95 year old dementia patient in face

Nurse aide pleads guilty to punching elderly resident

Caregiver at group home charged with murder of resident

And the list could go on. But the point is that ALL patients should be monitored for signs of abuse, especially if the patient is incapacitated in some way. It’s horrible to consider, but even caregivers can turn to crime when given an opportunity and limited oversight. 

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