University College Hospital nurse who ‘froze’ as patient lay dying disciplined for serious misconduct

University College Hospital

University College Hospital - Credit: Archant

A disciplinary panel has found serious misconduct in the actions of a nurse who “froze” and failed to raise the alarm when a patient lay dying.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) concluded that University College Hospital nurse Beatrice Adebowale’s fitness to practice was impaired at a hearing this week.

Ms Adebowale was accused of failing to press an emergency alarm or phone the crash team, which responds to cardiac arrests and other life-threatening emergencies, after finding a woman patient unresponsive in the early hours of August 6, 2010.

No resuscitation was attempted and the patient, who was on the gastrointestinal T9 Ward, died unexpectedly.

Ms Adebowale was also accused of leaving the hospital, in Euston Road, Euston, after her night shift ended three hours later, at 8.30am, without informing ward sister Natalie Huxtable of the death.

She admitted both charges, but denied her fitness to practice was impaired.

Yesterday, the three-person panel found her fitness to practice was impaired due to her misconduct.

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The hearing was adjourned to April 29, when the panel will be decide if any sanction will be imposed.

The panel’s written decision stated: “The panel considers that a nurse taking appropriate action upon finding an unresponsive patient is fundamental to nursing care.

“The panel considers that, irrespective of whether a nurse has experienced such a situation before in their practice, she should be well aware of the appropriate interventions to implement promptly in the circumstances.

“In all the circumstances the panel concluded that your omissions amounted to serious misconduct.

“The panel has also concluded that the nature of your misconduct requires a finding of impairment for the protection of the public, to uphold and declare proper professional standards and to maintain the public confidence in the profession.”

During the hearing, Ms Adebowale said it was her first shift back at work after the death of her mother four days earlier.

Fighting back tears, she told the panel: “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.”

She also said it was the first time in her six-year nursing career that one of her patients died.