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Operating room liability

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Operating room liability

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operating room nursing malpractice

The unusual world of the operating room carries risks

Perioperative nurses are at risk for liability as they function in a highly collaborative environment interfacing with healthcare professionals, such as the

  • surgeon,
  • radiologist,
  • anesthesiologist,
  • nurse anesthetist,
  • physician assistants,
  • Registered Nurse First Assistants (RNFA), and
  • many others.

The stereotypical idea of the Operating Room Nurse as a nurse limited to caring for a patient within the confines of the operating room has greatly shifted into a more dynamic, involved process. Today, caring for the surgical patient can take place with a

  • preoperative interview either by telephone or direct interview,
  • or in the physician’s office,
  • patient care unit, or
  • preoperative holding area

The process of caring for the patient continues during the intraoperative phase until the completion of surgery. Perioperative nursing care continues through the recovery phases in the

  • post anesthesia care unit (PACU),
  • patient care units (in a hospital),
  • through the physician offices,
  • patient discharge units,
  • in the patient’s home, and
  • both telephone and written patient questionnaires and surveys.

All perioperative settings are engulfed in similar sights and sounds. The operating room is staffed with specially trained technicians, nurses, and doctors. The surgical team wears

  • scrubs,
  • shoe coverings,
  • paper hats,
  • gloves,
  • and disposable face masks.

The day-to-day surgical environment can range from very noisy to extreme quiet depending on the surgical procedures performed. These are common to all operating rooms:

  • constant recirculated cool air,
  • the high level of hygiene,
  • the austere, even severe furnishings,
  • the intense organization,
  • the need to account for all equipment and supplies,
  • the increase of technology and equipment, and
  • restricted access.

Foreign to the general nursing population, these are the familiar work surroundings for the perioperative nurse. Operating room nurses who make errors within this environment may be defendants in nursing malpractice cases.

This information comes from  Nursing Malpractice, Fourth Edition. 

Med League provides Medical Expert witnesses with expertise in evaluating operating room malpractice cases. Call us for assistance.

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