Nurse at University College Hospital “froze up” as dying patient reminded her of own mother

University College Hospital

University College Hospital - Credit: Archant

A nurse broke down in tears as she admitted “freezing up” when a patient stopped breathing on her first shift back at work after losing her own mother.

Beatrice Adebowale told a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) misconduct hearing yesterday that her mind went blank as the ordeal brought back the death of her mother in Nigeria four days earlier.

She admitted failing to properly raise the alarm upon finding the woman unresponsive, with no pulse, in the early hours of August 6, 2010, at University College Hospital.

Fighting back the tears, she said: “I thought I would be okay to come to work on Thursday [August 5]. I had just been at home crying all the time since she passed away, I had not been out.

“The moment I got into that room, all I saw on the bed was my mother when I saw the patient.

“I was so shocked that she was not responding, I called out her name and I checked her vital signs. I just froze up, I didn’t think of anything else to do.

“Nothing came to me at all in my brain. Everything was blank.”

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Ms Adebowale failed to press an emergency alarm button or dial the crash team, which responds to cardiac arrests and other life-threatening emergencies, and nor did she attempt to resuscitate with CPR. She instead went to find a doctor, the panel heard.

The woman was on the T9 Ward, which deals with gastrointestinal patients, and her death was unexpected.

“This was the first time in my nursing career that this happened to any of my patients,” added Ms Adebowale.

During the hearing into Ms Adebowale’s fitness to practice, Nabeel Osman, presenting for the NMC, asked what she would now do differently in the same circumstances.

“I have learned my lesson,” she replied. “Since 2010, I have learned a big lesson, I will never in my life put myself in such a situation.

“I’m prepared to start CPR on any patient I have got.

“It’s sad I am learning from a mistake. Her face is still in my head every day when I wake up and I think about this all the time.”

Ms Adebowale was also accused of leaving the hospital, in Euston Road, Euston, after her night shift ended without informing her manager, ward sister Natalie Huxtable, of the death.

She admitted doing so, but said she told another nurse who was in charge at the time.

Although she accepts the two charges against her, Ms Adebowale denies her fitness to practice is impaired.

The hearing continues.