Patient's Fall: Student Nurse Did Not Properly Assist Patient - Hospital Liable For Negligence

Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession


   Quick Summary: A nursing student at this student's level had the training and should have been able to care for this patient.

   The student nurse testified she had received training to assist patients with ambulation and transfer.

   The nursing students preceptor testified the patient needed someone close with her at a safe distance at all times to ambulate.  COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO, 1996.

   The patient's chart indicated that she had serious difficulty with her balance which made it necessary for her to have assistance when standing or walking with a walker and when transferring. She had fallen backward six days earlier, but was caught and lowered to the floor without being injured. She was afraid of falling and needed not only physical assistance, but also encouragement to take steps forward with her walker.

   According to the Court of Appeals of Ohio, the student nurse had read the patient’s chart and knew the patient had weakness and an unsteady gait. Nonetheless, the student nurse helped her up from the commode, then walked away and left the patient standing with her walker in the bathroom, while the student nurse propped the door hinge open and adjusted her wheelchair, expecting the patient to walk to the wheelchair on her own to transfer with assistance. The patient took a step forward, fell backward and was injured.

   The court ruled a healthcare facility will be held to the same legal standard of care for a student nurse’s error or omission as for the same error or omission by a licensed professional nurse.

   There was also testimony from a nursing instructor, that a nursing student at this student’s level should have known, the same as a graduate nurse, to stay close by this patient when standing or walking with a walker. Failing to give proper close attention to a patients need for assistance while ambulating is negligence, for which a healthcare facility can be held liable. Dimora vs. Hospital, 683 N.E. 2d 1175 (Ohio App., 1996).

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