Worked to Death? Family of Deceased Nurse Sues Employer

In the 24/7 healthcare world, it is not uncommon for nurses and other health care professionals to work long hours and overnight shifts. In a recent case in Ohio, a family of a deceased 38 year old nurse is suing The Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati where she used to work as a nurse in the bone marrow unit. A year ago, the nurse lost control of her vehicle driving home after completing a 12 hour shift at the hospital and passed away. 

The hospital and its parent company are seeking dismissal of the lawsuit. The hospital has argued that once she ended her shift and went in her car to go home, any responsibility that the hospital may have had ended. However, the family hopes to overcome this argument by demonstrating that the accident was foreseeable and that even her supervisor had allegedly commented that the job was wearing her down. In addition, the nurse had just secured another job at another medical facility with less hours just prior to her death. 

Understandably, health care and other employers are watching this case with interest. It is no secret that many positions in health care are emotionally and physically strenuous and demand long hours. Consequently, employers typically provide breaks to help combat fatigue that workers may suffer. Likewise, many health care employers encourage employees to utilize paid time off to rest and regroup. Some states have limited forced overtime for nurses which reduces the number of hours that nurses have to work. Employees that are not well rested have an increased risk of injury to themselves and others on the job. Employers and employees should communicate about concerns regarding fatigue and any workplace stress to avoid undesirable outcomes.

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