Malpractice Claims in Swedish Telenursing: Lessons Learned From Interviews With Telenurses and Managers

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Abstract

Background

This study deals with serious malpractice claims within Swedish Healthcare Direct, the national telephone helpline in Sweden. At least 33 claims of malpractice have been filed since the service was created in 2003. Although a low number, consequences have been tragic. Research in Swedish telenursing on contributing systemic and organizational factors and consequences of malpractice claims is sparse.

Objective

The objective was to explore the direct experience of telenurses’ and call center managers’ involvement in actual malpractice claims—with focus on factors that may have contributed to the claims—and on the consequences of the claims.

Methods

Six telenurses and five managers agreed to participate in open-ended interviews. A directed content analysis approach was chosen to analyze the transcribed interview texts.

Results

Stress, shiftwork, fatigue, multitasking, understaffing, and factors embedded in the system could have contributed to the malpractice claims. Safety management was treated locally, with no attempts at organizational reforms.

Discussion

The solitary nature of the telenursing task emphasizes the importance of an organization, which works toward providing an environment where telenurses can feel safe and supported. This may require, in turn, a change in both organizational and professional attitudes toward safety and risk of error. The greatest hinder may be healthcare providers themselves. If the difficulties in recruiting participants for this study are any indication, reaching out to healthcare providers who remain silent may be the greatest challenge.

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