A bizarre and troubling story from outside of Massachusetts shows that doctors are not the only medical professionals who can commit malpractice.
A nurse in New Jersey has voluntarily given up her license temporarily after an investigation revealed she repeatedly recycled flu shot syringes and gave her patients less than full doses. Her state’s board of nursing said that, if the allegations are true, the nurse committed medical malpractice, or else was grossly negligent or incompetent in her work.
The nurse allegedly did not reuse needles, only the syringes containing flu vaccine, so the risk of infection to patients is low, officials told My Fox Boston. However, 67 patients were exposed to used syringes, and officials are working with the nurse’s employer to find and alert those people. They recommend that the patients get tested for diseases like hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.
The clinic where the nurse administered the shots said it is taking “full responsibility” and offered “sincerest apologies” to everyone affected. The nurse has not yet been charged with a crime, but the state Attorney General’s office is involved, so charges might eventually result.
The alleged incidents all took place on one day, Sep. 30. One wonders how long this nurse could have been giving her patients half-doses and using the rest on someone else before she got caught.
Doctors and nurses are supposed to follow hygienic safety procedures for a reason. Even when the risk of spreading infection is relatively low, health care providers should take reasonable care to minimize infection as much as possible. This includes not using single-use syringes on more than one person.