After failing to provide resuscitation to a patient, a Warrington Hospital nurse was struck off, amidst several other blunders that included giving paracetamol to a patient that was allergic to the drug.
Doreen Ellam is now banned from the nursing profession in a decision from the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC), after the council realized that she put patients at significant risk and harm in her employment stint of being a band five nursing staff in Warrington Hospital’s acute medical ward for the elderly.
In London, nine of the Warrington Hospital staff provided evidence during a long, one-week hearing, where a total of 10 charges were filed against Ellam.
On the 9th of December 2014, a hearing conducted by the NMC heard that Ellam had failed to recognize the deteriorating condition of a patient and that she furthermore failed to provide the needed resuscitation to the said patient.
One of the student nurses asked Ellam to check up on one patient. Later, however, the ward sister instead saw that her colleague had the dentures of her patient in her hand, while the patient struggled for breath and was moving erratically.
This prompted the ward sister to urge Ellam to observe; instead, however, she began to “faff” around. In the meantime, the patient ceased breathing. This caused the personnel to call the ward manager, after which they began to conduct CPR, with Ellam standing uselessly beside them. A colleague described Ellam as being ‘frozen’.
Not the First Time
Prior to this, on the 25th of May 2014, Ellam had also failed to correctly assess another patient’s condition, this time resuscitating the said patient while being unaware of their DNR status and also failing to improve their deteriorating condition.
During the hearing, Ellam was admonished that she was duty-bound to be knowledgeable about patients’ DNR statuses, which was identified clearly on their handover papers.
Witnesses described that the patient was in poor condition and had a purple face. When a nursing staff asked Ellam if the patient may need a doctor, she strangely said that she think she might.
In addition, Ellam told the nurse that her patient must be resuscitated. Even so, she did not participate in the subsequent attempt to resuscitate; instead, she was seen going out and getting the patient’s notes, while belatedly informing her colleagues of the patient’s DNR status.
Previous to that incident, Ellam also revealed confidential information regarding a patient and the patient’s family to another patient.
She even approached a nursing staff who was currently tending to another distressed patient, while discussing how a family of one patient wasn’t happy about their relative being discharged.
Violation of Privacy
A colleague of Ellam reported to the Nursing & Midwifery Council panel how Ellam’s actions demonstrated a profound lack of respectfulness for the privacy of the patient.
One night, on the 4th of November 2014, Ellam took a patient in a wheelchair to the bathroom. Upon returning, a colleague of hers noticed how the said patient seemed unwell and even breathless; her description was that the patient was clearly gasping. Meanwhile, Ellam seemed very much oblivious to the plight of the man. The same staff nurse later went to check the patient, and she noticed how Ellam appeared to be very flustered, while still not completing the necessary observations on her patient.
On an unspecified date, Ellam was also reported to have administered medication, particularly paracetamol, to one patient who was in fact allergic to the drug. Also, on the 24th of May, 4th of November and 4th of December, 2014, she failed to complete the required medication rounds in a safe and timely manner.
It took Ellam four hours to complete her rounds while making an enormous amount of errors, which included suggesting that medication be disposed by flushing the drug down the toilet; trying to administer wrong medication to one patient; and not ensuring that a patient take their needed medication. It was also revealed to the NMC panel that Ellam was also not updated regarding training on the proper administration of medicines. During that particular hearing, Ellam was not present, and no one was representing her, either.
Concluding the Case
The NMC then concluded that Ellam’s behavior and actions seriously fell short of the proper conduct and the expected standards that a nurse should have; furthermore, that these behaviors and actions were serious enough to be labeled as misconduct.
The panel added that the misconduct also involved a significant number of wide-ranging and serious failures that was sustained over a considerable period of time. In other words, Ellam’s actions put her patients at risk of serious harm. It was also found that she exhibited no evidence of remorse, insight, or remediation.
Ellam was described by the clinical nurse and specialist educator of the hospital as very caring, compassionate, and polite to patients. Nevertheless, she was struck off after having her employment previously terminated by her hospital.
A Warrington & Halton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust spokesman also said that the trust conducted a full investigation when concerns reached it regarding Ellam’s practice. The trust then concluded that her contract should be terminated, and it became so. After all, it is the trust’s professional duty to maintain and ensure that its nurses exhibit high standards in terms of caring for their patients. In this regard, it referred Ellam’s case to the NMC in order to ensure that the interests of the patients are protected.