Can hospital staff help people who aren’t patients?

A man brought his father in to the hospital for a wrist x-ray. While riding the elevator to the 6th floor, the 86 year old father collapsed in his son’s arms. When the elevator doors opened, the son was just lowering the man to the ground.

He called for help from the group of nurses gathered in the nurses station. He wanted them to come help— or at least call a code blue.

Allegedly, the nurses did not come to help the man, but suggested they call 9-1-1 for him.

Nine minutes later, EMS arrives on the scene and takes the man to the emergency department.

Read the full story here.

So whats at the bottom of this?

Unionized nurses unwilling to help a man because it is not part of their job description?

Nurses who are fearful of litigation if something were to go wrong?

Hospital workers bogged down by too much red tape at their facility that they are not sure if they should help or not (for fear of losing their job)?

Once while working, I had a nurse collapse in the middle of the nurses station. Her airway was compromised and she turned blue. The medical staff within yelling distance came to her aid. As the crash cart came out and the team began their typical routine of interventions, you could actually feel the tension in the air. Coworkers of this nurse struggled to keep her alive while maintaining composure.

All of a sudden one physician yelled “Stop, we cannot treat her, she is not a patient!”

You should have seen the looks this doctor got from the staff.

Another physician standing in the area yelled back, “She’s my patient now!” He took over the code from that point. He, along with the coworkers of this nurse, saved her life.

Had she waited 9 minutes for EMS to arrive on the hospital unit, I’m not sure the outcome would have been as positive.

Luckily for the aforementioned 86 year old man, his condition was not immediately life threatening. He had nine minutes to wait on the elevator floor without his life being compromised. Had this man died, could the nurses have been prosecuted?

One comment by self-identified “Dumb founded again” so eloquently points out:

I am reminded of the final episode of Seinfeld where the whole bunch went to jail for standing by while a man was mugged. So Seinfeld is our new reality?

I realize there are many factors in play in this situation, BUT, to me, it seems the silence of these nurses was nine minutes too long.


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