My most memorable case involved a 21-year-old Portuguese speaking woman who was about to have her second child. During the C-section closure, the patient sustained an injury to her bladder which resulted in the development of a vesicouterine fistula and vesicovaginal fistula. She suffered for five days without being able to communicate her needs, pain or fear to the medical staff. She was eventually transferred to a tertiary care hospital but had to undergo a hysterectomy to repair the injury to her bladder. The failure to recognize the injury lasted five days.
This case is memorable as a CLNC consultant because when I met the plaintiff six months after surgery she was unclear exactly what happened and why due to her language barrier. I suggested that the attorney obtain an interpreter to help me communicate completely and clearly with his client.
The attorney got me involved as the Certified Legal Nurse Consultant in the case right from the beginning. I orchestrated the intake with the help of the interpreter. I reviewed all of the medical records and wrote a report for the attorney. I also located an OB/GYN expert as well as a urology expert to testify.
The case settled for $2.5 million dollars. I helped my attorney-client argue the point surrounding the plaintiff’s inability to communicate her pain and suffering to the medical personnel due to the language barrier for five days. My attorney-client was grateful for my thorough analysis and my ability to raise issues beyond the actual medical care.
The language barrier component really opened my eyes to how frightened the plaintiff must have been throughout the ordeal. I now keep potential language barrier in mind whenever I consult on a case.
My attorney-client thought I had real compassion for how the plaintiff felt and that I was able to explain it well. He referred me to his attorney colleagues who also have clients with language barriers and I have received a few more cases on this issue.
The plaintiff tried very hard to communicate with me in English, but she was frustrated and fearful that she was not getting her point across. I learned that as a legal nurse consultant I must always listen to what the client says as well as what the client doesn’t say or is unable to say. That is why this case is memorable.
Mildred Mannion, RN, BSN, CNOR, CLNC is the owner of M3 Legal Nurse Consulting, Inc. in Massachusetts. She has 25 years of nursing experience and currently works in the operating room of a large teaching hospital.
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