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The link between hospital staffing and medical malpractice

When most people think of the concept of medical malpractice, they imagine a situation where a doctor's error has clearly injured a patient. Things like conducting surgery on the wrong site of a patient's body or prescribing the wrong types of medications to treat a patient's illnesses are clear-cut examples of medical malpractice.

However, it's important for you to know that medical malpractice also occurs whenever any medical practitioner fails to treat patients in his or her care with the same standard of care that is generally accepted throughout the entire medical community.

It's also important to know that the quality and level of health care staffing at hospitals can also play a significant role in creating environments more prone to occurrences of medical malpractice. A joint research project conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NPR and the Harvard School of Public Health has looked into the role of nurses and how they affect standards of care throughout many American hospitals. Here are some of the more salient issues revealed in that research:

-- When polled about the availability of nurses during their stay in a hospital, 34 percent of patients that remained in a hospital for at least one night in the previous year reported that nurses failed to timely respond to them or were simply not available.

-- A big problem associated with having a shortage of nursing staff is that nurses are usually the first care providers to detect problems affecting patients and intervene on their behalf. Any shortage of nurses can create a greater likelihood that smaller unnoticed complications can escalate to the point where they become dangerous to the health of patients.

-- According to experts there is no shortage of nurses per se. Nursing schools are still producing sufficient candidates. The research indicates that hospitals may be attempting to reduce overall costs by not hiring sufficient nursing staff.

As a resident of Illinois, you need to know that you deserve the appropriate standard of care whenever you receive treatment from medical professionals throughout the state. If you believe a lack of competent and available staffing may have contributed to your injuries, you may be entitled to seek compensation. A medical malpractice attorney experienced in Illinois personal injury laws can assist you in seeking a recovery based on your losses.

Source: Nursing- University of Pennsylvania- Advance for Nurses, "Overworked Nurses, Understaffed Hospital Units Concern Public, Poll Finds," accessed Aug. 06, 2015

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