Bonnie Turbyfield was driving her husband home from a routine knee surgery on April 19, 2010 when Emmett Lee Turbyfield, 56, stopped breathing. Although paramedics resuscitated him, Turbyfield had suffered irreversible brain damage and died two days later.
"I lost the love of my life," said a tearful Mrs. Turbyfield who pointed to her husband's death as one tragic reason why she believes Georgia nurses should be mandated to complete yearly training.
According to a lawsuit, Emmett Lee died of an overdose of a powerful painkiller administered by registered nurse, Lisa Jarvis. The suit lists Gennifer Wiley, MD, Lisa Jarvis, RN and the Northwest Georgia Orthopaedic Surgery Center as defendants.
According to records, Jarvis administered 2 mg of Dilaudid in the recovery room even though the physician had not prescribed it. According to the Turbyfields' attorney, Bill Parker, Wiley did not assess Emmett Lee Turbyfield before he was discharged by the nurse less than 30 minutes after the Dilaudid was given.
"This should never happen," said Parker who pointed out that medical staff should have monitored Emmett Lee Turbyfield for several hours because he had obstructive sleep apnea.
Parker said the drugs prevented Emmett Lee Turbyfield from waking up when he stopped breathing in his sleep.
"The nurses at this particular surgery center were not being educated; not being trained; not required to," said Parker.
He pointed out that Georgia is one of 17 states that does not require licensed nurses to complete continuing education courses.
"I can't think of the word - of the disgust I feel when I think about that," said Marcus Turbyfield, Emmett Lee's son.
The younger Turbyfield said he has to complete more than a dozen hours of continuing education each year to maintain his pest control license.
A CBS Atlanta investigation finds most licensed professionals in Georgia are required to complete continuing education courses. Nursing is one of two allied-health fields that does not.
State Sen. Buddy Carter, Savannah, introduced a bill last legislative session that would create a continuing education mandate for the nursing field. It failed.
"I think patients are at risk any time a health care professional, whether it be a nurse or whoever, isn't keeping up with the changes in medicine," said Carter who plans to reintroduce the legislation in 2013.
According to the Georgia Nurses Association CEO Debbie Hackman, many healthcare companies require their staff to complete continuing education even though it isn't mandated by the state.
"We want all nurses to put patient safety first, and continuing their education and continue their competency through lifelong learning is a good thing," said Hackman.
But CBS Atlanta News learned the Northwest Georgia Orthopaedic Surgery Center did not require its staff to keep its skills sharp through continued training.
When asked in a deposition, if the center cares if nurses keep up with current medical trends and standards, Surgery Center Administrator Jean Calhoun responded, "It is not mandated."
"We don't train nurses. We hire nurses with experience," said Calhoun in the deposition.
Two months after Turbyfield's death, a state inspection found the Northwest Georgia Orthopaedic Surgery Center had a number of deficiencies including improper handling of medications. According to state records, those deficiencies have been corrected.
Calhoun declined to be interviewed by CBS Atlanta News.
In a statement to CBS Atlanta News, Calhoun said:
"To follow up from your call, the mission of Northwest Georgia is to provide first-class surgical services for our community in a safe, comfortable and welcoming environment; one in which we would be happy to treat our own families. There is no higher priority than the care of our patients and we are proud of our record of service. Our thoughts go out to the family. However, but (sic) due to the pending mediation, we cannot comment further at this time."
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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