Almost all hospitals in the United States are teaching hospitals in some way. Whether they take on interns, have actual classes, or let students observe surgical procedures, hospitals are there to mold and create the world’s next best physicians. In order for any person to graduate medical school, he or she must have hands-on experience. So, it should be no surprise that hospitals throughout the state of Illinois house interns and medical students eager to learn their new profession. While these facilities do take precautions and carefully monitor their students, a lack of staffing – and over-worked residents and attendees on-site – means that medical students and interns are left to treat patients on their own. It is rare, but when a medical student or intern makes a critical error, a patient could suffer irreversible harm or even death.
But, who is technically responsible when a student or intern causes an error? Unfortunately, the answer will depend on several factors.
Anyone in the healthcare field can be faced with a medical malpractice suit – including medical students, interns, physicians, nurses, trainees, and pharmacists. Lawsuits involving students and interns are rare, but if that student does act negligently, there is a potential for a suit against the student or even the hospital.
Determining the Malpractice Value
Most hospitals that are considered “teaching” hospitals offer some of the best care in the country. They work toward treating every patient while still teaching future doctors how to provide excellent care. These facilities do, however, deal with high turnover rates – especially as students rotate between medical specialties or even leave the program unexpectedly. This change rate in staffing can make it difficult for even the best hospitals to properly monitor and/or train their students. When students have various training and expertise levels, but limited monitoring, errors are likely to occur.
One of the most common reasons why lawsuits happen when students make mistakes is negligent supervision – meaning that hospital staff (whether a resident, fellow, or attendee) did not monitor the student or intern properly. Medical students are typically under the supervision of a resident or attendee, which is a licensed physician. These physicians also have their own patients and cases that they are working on while they are training prospective doctors. Therefore, they may not monitor students as effectively as they should – and it is not uncommon for inexperienced students to improperly diagnose a patient.
Hospitals and Vicarious Liability
Physicians are usually liable for any errors on behalf of their interns and students. But, when the physician and the student are part of a training program, the issue of vicarious liability comes into play. The hospital could be considered liable for the student and intern errors that are committed within their facility – especially if the interns are considered hospital employees.
Speak with a Chicago Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you have suffered an injury due to a medical student or intern, you may still qualify for compensation under the law. The attorneys at Malman Law will assess your case and determine not only if your case qualifies for malpractice, but if the hospital or overseeing physician is vicariously liable for your injuries. To learn more about your options or to speak with an attorney, call us today to schedule a free consultation. You can also ask a malpractice question via our online contact form.