Nursing Profession Reacts to Thao Decision

By: Michelle Riell Email
By: Michelle Riell Email

Wisconsin nurses are now focusing on ways to prevent fatigue following the death of Jasmine Gant. The 16 year old died during childbirth after former St. Mary's nurse Julie Thao injected her with an epidural through an I-V.

Thursday afternoon the Wisconsin Nursing Ccoalition Membership met in Verona to discuss ways to try and limit fatigue.

Connie Philpot is an ER nurse at UW Hospital. She supports Julie Thao and says, "I think it affected every nurse because we all know we could have been Julie." Philpot has been a Registered Nurse for about 20 years and in that time says she's worked through the point of exhaustion. "It's never ideal, but you can't walk away either, someone has to take care of that patient. In an emergency room setting we can't close our doors and say no, we have to meet the needs of our patients," she says.

Most nurses are scheduled for 8 or 12 hour shifts, but often find themselves working longer to meet patient's needs, cover staffing shortages, or because they've volunteered to work double shifts. Executive Director of the Wisconsin Nurses Association Gina Dennik-Champion says, "There really are no hours for nurses, we do see that in other industries, but it's pretty much up to the employer obviously, if they need them to work additional hours and it's also up to the nurse."

A situation that's forced nurses like Philpot to learn to compensate for fatigue. "I think all of us know what fatigue feels like, and um, the prudent nurse says oh, double check this with me. You think about your practice differently when you're tired."

But just one mistake can be fatal, a reality that now could carry criminal charges in the case of Julie Thao and has the nursing community asking new questions. Dennik-Champion says, "What do we do about it? Do we need to change policies, do we need to change legislation, to build a better awareness?"

Nurses at Thursday's conference say the questions raised by the Julie Thao case won't be answered in just one meeting. They say discussion, education and research is the best way to solve the problem and prevent other nurses from facing a situation like Julie Thao.

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