If you asked a casual observer what caused the death of a Cincinnati, Ohio, nurse as she was driving home from work in the early morning hours, they might say that it was just a car accident. But a wrongful death lawsuit filed recently by the woman's grieving husband argues that it was something else entirely: the grueling work schedule for nurses at the woman's understaffed hospital. He says that his wife was literally worked to death, making her drowsy and foreseeable that she would fall asleep while driving, crash her car and die.
He asserts that she worked overly long hours at the hospital from sometime in 2011 right up to March 16 of this year when she died while driving home at the end of a tiring 12-hour work shift. Had the hospital hired more nurses, he says, this might not have happened.
The largest union in the U.S. representing registered nursing agrees that hospital understaffing and overworking of nurses is chronic and a disgrace. They say that this could have a negative impact on the quality of patient care, as well as on the health and safety of the nurses. The woman's husband believes that she dozed off in her car, resulting in her driving off the road, flying off an embankment and crashing into a tree. She was 38 and the mother of two children.
The husband wants to present evidence in the lawsuit that even his wife's supervisor told her superiors at the hospital that his wife was being worked to death by the brutally long shift. Nothing was done to remedy the known problem. While litigation of this sort blames working conditions for accidents off the work site, perhaps they might become more widespread if this one succeeds.
Source: CNN, "Lawsuit: Ohio nurse was 'worked to death'" Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, Nov. 13, 2013