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Student nurse gives antibiotic IV--death results.

ORDINARILY STUDENT NURSES ARE SUPERVISED BY THEIR INSTRUCTORS OR CHARGE NURSES IN HOSPITAL SETTINGS. In this tragic Michigan case, a student nurse administered prescribed antibiotics, not as prescribed, but intravenously instead of orally. The administration of the antibiotic intravenously was a death warrant for the hapless patient who was the victim of the student nurse's error. Should the hospital at which the student nurse was learning the practice of nursing have been responsible for the negligence of the student nurse? That was just one of the issues with which the Michigan courts were confronted with in this unusual case.

RUTH DENNIS WAS A PATIENT AT SPECIALTY SELECT HOSPITAL-FLINT. During the course of her stay at the hospital Kay Schmidt, a student nurse, who was a student at the University of Michigan, was doing a portion of her training at the hospital and not required to be licensed to practice as a student nurse, administered a dose of the antibiotic, Nystatin, intravenously instead of orally as ordered by the patient's attending physician. The patient died soon after receiving the medication. Charles Dennis, the personal representative of the decedent's estate brought suit against the hospital alleging that the student nurse was guilty of 'ordinary negligence' in failing to properly read and understand the decedent's physician's order to administer the Nystatin orally. The Plaintiff alleged vicarious liability against the hospital. The Plaintiff filed a separate suit in the Court of Claims alleging ordinary negligence and vicariously against the University of Michigan Board of Regents. The cases were consolidated in the trial court. The hospital and student nurse Schmidt filed separate motions for summary judgment. They alleged that the plaintiff's claim sounded in medical malpractice rather than ordinary negligence because decisions regarding the administration of medication to a hospitalized patient involved medical judgment. The defendants asserted that they were entitled to summary disposition because the plaintiff failed to file a notice of intent to file a medical malpractice suit as required by Michigan law. They further alleged that the Plaintiff failed to file an affidavit of merit, also required by Michigan law. The Genesee Circuit Court granted the motions for summary judgment of all the defendants. The plaintiff appealed the judgment.

THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MICHIGAN AFFIRMED THE JUDGMENT OF THE LOWER COURT GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR THE DEFENDANTS. The court held, inter alia, that the plaintiff failed to meet the requirements mandated under Michigan law in order to pursue a medical malpractice claim. The administration of medication to a hospitalized patient, albeit by a student nurse or a veteran certified nurse practictioner, involves medical judgment, thus, making the case a medical malpractice case. A medical malpractice case arises from the course of a professional relationship and involves questions of judgment beyond the scope of common knowledge and experience of laymen. A claim of ordinary negligence raises issues within the common knowledge and experience of a factfinder. In determining whether a claim sounds in medical malpractice or ordinary negligence, a court must consider: (1) whether the claim pertains to an action that occurred in the context of a professional relationship; and (2) whether the claim raises questions of medical judgment that are beyond the realm of common knowledge and experience. If both questions are answered in the affirmative, the claim sounds in medical malpractice

THE COURT CONCLUDED THAT, WHEN SCHMIDT ADMINISTERED THE DRUG INCORRECTLY, SHE WAS ACTING ON BEHALF OF THE HOSPITAL. This was so despite the fact that Schmidt was a student nurse. Accordingly, both she and the hospital could be subjected to claims for malpractice. The court rejected the argument that Schmidt's failure to read, understand, and implement the decedent's physician's order to administer Nystatin orally constituted ordinary negligence. The plaintiff's allegations in this case closely resembled the plaintiff's allegations in another case that had come before the Michigan courts. The court cited the case of Simmons v Apex Drug Stores, Inc., 201 Mich App. 250; 506 N.W.2d 562 (1993). In that case the plaintiff maintained that a pharmacist's act in dispensing the wrong medication constituted ordinary negligence. In that case, the court disagreed with the plaintiff and held that the pharmacist's act constituted malpractice. Accordingly, the court concluded that Schmidt's act constituted malpractice. Expert testimony as to why Nystatin must be administered orally is beyond the comprehension of laymen. Dennis v. Specialty Select Hospital-Flint, 2005 WL 2402454 N.W.2d--MI
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Title Annotation:case of negligence on University of Michigan Board of Regents' student
Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Nursing Law's Regan Report
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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