Healthcare providers have a tendency to be warm and compassionate and also altruistic.
Sometimes the qualities that make our profession respected and loved can also make us unintentional targets of the plaintiff’s attorney. Your best friend has been stricken with Gout after a weekend of gathering with old military friends and eating large amounts of steak and drinking many mugs of beer. This is his first attack and the pain has become unbearable. He calls his best friend, Tom, the PA and asks if there is anything he can prescribe to alleviate his condition. Tom, being a loyal and faithful friend calls in a prescription for allopurinal which gives the relief he had hoped for. On day three of the treatment he developed a severe rash, took benadryl and some steroids that he had at home and never contacted his PA friend Tom. By the end of the week this patient had expired with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome secondary to Tom’s prescription and his wife had no recourse other than to bring suit against Tom for wrongful death. Tom had no patient chart, no written information, had not warned his friend of potential side effects and was now culpable.
Heather wrote a prescription for her cousin who had all the symptoms of a severe Strep throat. She had not examined or cultured him and was a GYN PA , not as familiar with general medical illnesses and had no chart. Her cousin who had received a prescription for high dose augmentin , developed severe angioedema and had an anaphalactic reaction and died. Heather’s cousins wife brought suit against Heather who regretted ever answering the phone that morning.
Fifteen years ago a recovery room nurse requested that I write her a prescription for a non scheduled medication. I took out my trusty pad to write the prescription when my chief of surgery, Dr. Gallagher, stated Bob, put your pad away. He said what you are doing is illegal, she has no chart, is not in your specialty and is not your patient. This would be one of the most stupid things you could do. He spoke with me in the locker room and said that the nurses used to ask him and his colleagues for a prescription and in the name of public relations , some gave in but most refrain from the practice now. They have perpetrated their actions by asking the PAs. He told me that I was a leader and that I should lead by example and tell my colleagues likewise.
So here I am tonight, writing this little missive to proclaim a warning to my fellow PAs; don’t break the law and don’t allow yourself to become vulnerable. Site the above stories and also look into providing yourself with a personal liability insurance policy to protect you for some of the other unexpected curves in the road ahead. Your future and your practice demand that you stay ever vigilant and that you are protected from the mysterious problems that can enter into your professional practice.
By Robert M. Blumm, PA, DFAAPA, PA-C Emeritus
PA Advisor to CM&F