Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Saving Lives? We Have a Policy Against That

This story is sweeping through the mainstream media - a nurse at a California senior living facility called 911 when a resident was having trouble breathing. Per the 911 call (LA Times coverage here):
A fire dispatcher unsuccessfully pleaded with a nurse to start CPR on an elderly woman who was barely breathing. "It's a human being," Bakersfield fire dispatcher Tracey Halvorson said. "Is there anybody that's willing to help this lady and not let her die?" The woman paused. "Um, not at this time."
It's hard to believe, isn't it? The nurse indicated in the course of the call that it was against the facility's staff policy to perform CPR and save the woman's life.

Seriously? I can't track down the actual policy, but saw a report online that reported the policy was actually ambiguous - paraphrasing from memory, something like: "In case of emergency call 911 and wait for help." It didn't seem to preclude helping someone who was dying.

We can only guess at this time why the nurse was so hesitant to help. Perhaps she was concerned about liability? Or her job? In any event, employers who are likely to face such situations (like senior facilities) may wish to make their employees aware of "good Samaritan" laws (50 State Survey here). These laws generally shield people who in good faith attempt to render assistance.

You wouldn't think it's necessary to include a workplace policy that "it's okay to save someone's life when the 911 operator tells you that person is dying and needs you to perform CPR" . . . but maybe it is.