Investigation: Minnesota nurse ignored dying patient's seizures, pain

A six-month Minnesota Department of Health investigation determined a central Minnesota nurse neglected a nursing home patient as he suffered multiple violent seizures in his final hours.  According to the report, a family member who was visiting the patient at Sterling Park Health Care Center in Waite Park even screamed for help, but the nurse administered no medication and failed to alert a doctor.

The investigation documented 7 seizures within 11 hours, concluding that the nurse’s neglect contributed to the patient’s pain and suffering. The patient died the next day, Aug. 8. The patient was at Sterling Park with non-alcohol cirrhosis of the liver. The death certificate listed natural causes as the reason for death.

The licensed practical nurse, who is not identified the report, was suspended during the investigation and terminated from the facility at the conclusion of the investigation.

According to the investigative report, the patient’s seizures lasted between under a minute to over two minutes. During one of the seizures, the patient bit through part of his tongue and cheek, with “large amounts of blood expelled.”

During one series of seizures, a family member told the nurse, “It looks like [patient] is in pain!” The nurse said, “Yes, it does,” then walked out of the room. The family member said she went into the hallway and screamed, “Somebody help me!” but the nurse never came.

When the evening shift nurse reported to work, the patient was given pain medication, which stopped the seizures and the signs of pain.

When interviewed by investigators, the nurse said she was not aware the patient had orders for pain medication, and did not give an explanation as to why the doctor was not contacted after the patient started experiencing seizures.

INVESTIGATION CONCLUSION: "Based on a preponderance of evidence, neglect occurred when the Alleged Perpetrator (AP) failed to provide the necessary care and services to a resident who was in pain and experienced multiple seizures. The AP failed to provide the resident with any pain medication and did not contact the physician regarding the resident’s change in condition." Read the full report