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How nurse anesthetists can identify and manage patient risks

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) provide an important service for patients in California undergoing procedures requiring the proper delivery of anesthesia. Yet these specialists also perform their services with a high degree of independence. This increases the odds of being subjected to a malpractice lawsuit if the patient outcome isn't as expected.

According to the Nurses Service Organization (NSO), medication mistakes, oversights with intervention or treatment and failing to monitor a patient's condition are among the more common anesthesia errors related to allegations made against nurse anesthetists. Based on a review of two case studies, the NSO has come up with suggestions for identifying and managing risks involving nurse anesthetists. The first suggestion is for CRNAs to keep their training, experience and skills up to date. It's also advised that nurse anesthetists always verify that informed consent is properly obtained.

Reviewing the patient's clinical history is another step that may help CRNAs identify and manage risks. This process also includes documenting any conversations with the patient and confirming that the intended method of delivering anesthesia is appropriate for the patient. It's equally important for CRNAs to report any changes in a patient's condition or symptoms. Also, it's recommended that patient responses, both positive and negative, be documented. Lastly, CRNAs are advised to report any patient-related injuries or adverse outcomes to their organization's legal/risk management department.

If a patient does have an unintended experience that may be related anesthesia, a medical malpractice attorney could look for evidence that a CRNA failed to take proper precautions. While professional liability insurance might minimize the financial impact of litigation for CRNAs, an affected patient is still entitled to fair compensation if it's determined that an anesthesia-related error contributed to pain and suffering.

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