Patient death raises questions on agency nurse use

The death of a patient in a Plantation, FL emergency department has re-surfaced persistent questions over whether hospitals nationwide are creating quality problems by using fill-in "agency" nurses extensively. In this case, retired plumber William Fain, 80, was in the care of an agency nurse in the ED at Westside Regional Medical Center after suffering a seizure. The agency nurse caring for Fain, who was being taken to the ICU, was told to put up bedrails, lower the bed and check him frequently, but did none of these things, according to a suit filed by Fain's family. Fain fell out of bed, suffered brain damage and died two weeks after the incident.

Critics say that while it doesn't always result in severe injury or death, the fact that hospitals rely so heavily on agency nurses is a recipe for disaster, given that such nurses--even if top professional quality--can't pick up on a hospital's routines immediately or provide continuity of care. However, given the ongoing nursing shortage, which is only getting worse in Florida and elsewhere, hospitals sometimes have few alternatives, hospital executives note.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this South Florida Sun Sentinel article

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