Advice and development

Attending a police interview after a patient dies

Being interviewed by the police following the death of a patient was a stressful yet ultimately rewarding experience for nursing student Ann Marie Wagstaff.
police

Being interviewed by the police following the death of a patient was a stressful yet ultimately rewarding experience for nursing student Ann Marie Wagstaff

In the second year of my nursing degree I was involved in an investigation into the death of a patient, which followed a medication error.

I had been informed by the patient that a medication error had occurred earlier that day, so reported this to my mentor. I wanted to ensure the patient could receive any necessary treatment and was protected from further harm.

Duty of candour

Although the patient did not die as a direct result of the medication error, the coroner instructed that an investigation be carried out due to the close proximity of the incident to the patients death.

...

Being interviewed by the police following the death of a patient was a stressful yet ultimately rewarding experience for nursing student Ann Marie Wagstaff

police
Finding out what happened may help prevent something similar in the future.
Picture: Alamy

In the second year of my nursing degree I was involved in an investigation into the death of a patient, which followed a medication error.

I had been informed by the patient that a medication error had occurred earlier that day, so reported this to my mentor. I wanted to ensure the patient could receive any necessary treatment and was protected from further harm.

Duty of candour

Although the patient did not die as a direct result of the medication error, the coroner instructed that an investigation be carried out due to the close proximity of the incident to the patient’s death.

When I was asked to attend an interview with a police officer at the request of the coroner, I immediately felt anxious. I had been interviewed by staff at the trust about the incident, and had spoken to my university lecturers, but this was the first time I had ever been formally interviewed by a police officer.

The interview was optional so I was under no obligation to attend, but I wanted to carry out my duty of candour to the patient and provide the family with answers. Supporting the investigation was the best way for me to do this.

Prior to the interview I spoke to my union representative and a representative from the university’s legal team. I also had a university staff member to support me who was allowed to attend the interview with me.

Honesty and courage

They all assured me that this was protocol, and at no point was I to be arrested or put under caution, but this did little to calm my nerves at the time.

During the interview, the police officer was patient and kind, frequently offering me a break if I needed it. I became emotional at times – it was not easy recounting the incident or talking about something I was finding difficult to process – but when it was over I was glad I had done it. I had a duty as a nurse to advocate for my patient, even after death.

To students who may experience something similar, I cannot stress enough the importance of honesty and having the courage to speak out if something isn’t right. No one is there to blame you, they just want to establish what happened, how and why, so they can help prevent something similar happening in the future.

Although this was a daunting and stressful experience, it was also an invaluable learning experience, and I have become a more observant practitioner as a result.


Ann Marie Wagstaff is a third-year nursing student 

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs