Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice in a Teaching Hospital?

When someone goes to the hospital to address a serious illness or injury, they expect to receive the care that they need from a trained, knowledgeable, and experienced doctor in order to be well again. Realistically, the training, knowledge, and experience take many years for doctors to acquire and they often cannot be acquired inside of a classroom. For this reason, medical students don’t graduate until they have years of hands-on experience in a hospital setting. While this hands-on training is vital to the development of experienced and knowledgeable doctors, it’s not without a certain amount of risk.  

As we have discussed on this blog before, medical malpractice is very common and can have devastating consequences. Many of the instances of medical malpractice that we’ve discussed have been committed by doctors with years of training. In this blog, we’ll look at who is responsible (and liable) when medical students make mistakes which rise to the level of medical malpractice.

What Are Teaching Hospitals?

Most of the hospitals in the United States take on medical students and interns on a consistent basis. Often, hospitals teach medical classes, allow students to observe surgical procedures, and accompany physicians throughout their daily rotations so that students can observe real-world situations. Medical students are required to have years of this hand-on experience, and hospitals are generally where they go to get it. These hospitals are known as teaching hospitals.

What Do Teaching Hospitals Do to Prevent Mistakes?

To prevent mistakes which could harm patients, teaching hospitals often take precautions and monitor medical students and interns very carefully. In some cases, though, medical students see patients on their own due to under-staffing. In these instances, a supervising physician is expected to sign off on any medications or treatments provided by a medical student. In the event that the medical students make a mistake which causes a patient to suffer harm, the supervising physician is held responsible. If the supervising physician and the student are part of a training program, the hospital can be held liable for any mistakes made by the student. This is known as vicarious liability. Basically, hospitals are liable for any mistakes that are made within their facility. In some cases, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be brought against the medical student, the supervising physician, and the hospital.

Is Negligent Supervision Medical Malpractice?

As we’ve discussed before, there are many different kinds of medical malpractice. When a supervising physician doesn’t supervise the medical students that they are responsible for and patient errors occur, it’s called negligent supervision and they can be held responsible for it in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In general, hospitals take steps to prevent medical malpractice. Teaching hospitals take many steps to try to curtail any negligent supervision to guarantee patients receive the level of care they are seeking and to make sure that the aspiring doctors get a quality education. Despite the steps that they take, teaching hospitals often experience a high turnover rate as students rotate between medical specialties or leave the training program. Inconsistent staffing can often lead doctors and other hospital staff stretched thin. This, in turn, leads to negligent supervision and, unfortunately, medical malpractice.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

Even though medical students can be sued for medical malpractice, it’s generally the supervising physician and/or hospital who are ultimately held liable. If you have questions about medical malpractice, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced malpractice attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield for a free consultation. With over 70 collective years of legal and trial experience, they can offer you the expertise required to handle your medical malpractice questions.


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