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Errors in the Emergency Room

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Medical mistakes can occur in our healthcare system, and when they do, such errors can lead to serious harm to patients. One of the areas of medicine where such mistakes occur is the emergency room. It is an area that is prone to errors occurring, which sometimes, can lead to very serious adverse harm to a patient. There are many reasons why the emergency room may be a hotbed for errors and omissions.  The doctors and nurses who are in the emergency room are met with serious time constraints in treating patients. Sometimes, a large number of decisions about a patient’s care have to be made quickly without having time to run clinical tests. Many emergency rooms may be under staffed, putting additional stress on the doctors and nurses forced to deal with the influx of patients who may have serious medical problems or even life threatening injuries, and a very short period of time to deal with such problems.

In a study conducted in 2003, the most common type of mistake occurring in the emergency room was tied to diagnostic studies. The next area involved medication related problems. Another area of error and omission in the emergency room is just common communication problems. One of these areas involves what happens to the patient once they are discharged and the instructions given to the patient upon discharge. There must be effective communication between the patient the doctor or discharge nurse. During the emergency room visit there must be communication between the patient and the emergency room staff, usually the attending nurse on the nature of the medical problem; There must be good communication regarding the patient and the attending nurse regarding their prior medical  history; the attending nurse must adequately communicate this information to the emergency room doctor so appropriate care, and testing can be done and finally, the discharge nurse must communicate adequately to the patient on any necessary follow up care following being discharged from the emergency room. It would be helpful to the patient if common language is used and not difficult to understand medical jargon. It is also helpful if the patient has a family member with them, so the discharge care can also be related to the family member with written instructions handed out on what to do at home or what to do with following up after discharge with the patient’s own primary physician.

If you have questions about patient care or medical malpractice, contact our attorneys.

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