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Docs let 15-year-old student cut into patient

8 May 2012, 09:18

Published: 08 May 2012 09:18 GMT+02:00

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The student had previously had the opportunity to observe several surgeries as part of a practical work experience component common in many middle schools in Sweden.

However, on one occasion, the 15-year-old was handed a scalpel, bringing a new dimension to the "hands-on" nature of the unpaid work experience, referred to in Sweden by the acronym prao (praktisk arbetslivsorientering – 'practical work-life orientation').

"I don't know how deeply the prao cut, of it was a mere scrape or a cut several millimetres deep," Per Ekström, the supervisor of the attending doctor at Skåne University Hospital, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper..

According to Ekström, the doctor has since expressed regret over letting the untrained teenager handle a scalpel in an operating room.

The woman into whom the 15-year-old cut was aware that the student would be present for the operation, but had not been informed about the student's very active role in the surgery.

As she was under regional epidural anesthetic, the patient was awake when the student was given the opportunity to cut into her, but was unable to see exactly who was making the incision.

Ekström said the woman still doesn't know that the 15-year-old held the scalpel during her operation and she won't likely be informed.

"I don't think it would benefit anyone," he told the newspaper.

According to the hospital's regulations, no prao students under the age of 18 are allowed to be in an operating room.

However, other medical personnel in the operating room during the surgery didn't react negatively to the 15-year-old's presence.

"The staff thought it was pleasant that the prao was there and had an interest in the operation," said Ekström.

Nevertheless, the hospital does take the incident seriously, admitting that such incidents can harm people's faith in the Swedish healthcare system.

In addition, the hospital believes it has a responsibility to not place work experience students at the hospital in difficult situations.

Story continues below…

But the hospital maintains the woman was never put at risk during the procedure, and thus has no plans to report the incident to the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen).

"What happened lacked judgment but the patient wasn't hurt or put at risk for injury," the hospital's chief doctor, Eva Ranklev Twetman, told Sydsvenskan.

TT/The Local/dl

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Your comments about this article

08:59 May 8, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
"such incidents can harm people's faith in the Swedish healthcare system."

Its difficult to 'harm' a 'faith' that many people probably never had to start with
10:08 May 8, 2012 by Keith #5083
"I don't think it would benefit anyone"...translated..she'll sue the s**t out of us!

She was not 'put at risk' by an untrained work experience youth cutting in to her. hmmm....seems like a course in risk assessment is needed by persons in authoritative positions! Or, just maybe we are being told that the 'supposed and much vaunted skills of surgeons' is actually just one big PR job to justify high salaries!

Take your pick
10:58 May 8, 2012 by Puddi
@Simon: There's not a lot of countries with better healthcare systems than Sweden :\ Sure, there's a lot of flaws, but we really can't complain here.
11:18 May 8, 2012 by JerseyTjej
Work experience is important, never more so in a position such as a surgeon. But at what cost? The student still has another 12 years before being trained to cut, so how much experience was gleaned here? Glad our pilot did not let his prao fly the aircraft on the trans-con flight.
11:20 May 8, 2012 by Frank Arbach

Suggest you do a search here of Swedish healthcare and related topics and find all those stories about, for example, 'no show ambulances', 'man wakes up during operation' etc etc.

But yeah - pleased for you if YOUR experience of using the Swedish healthcare system is positive.

Quite a few people on this site don't think it is very good.....
11:24 May 8, 2012 by libertarianism
Swedish Propaganda 101: Puddi MVG ++
15:33 May 8, 2012 by k2kats
Many patients insert a line in hospital contractual agreements that identifies the individual(s) that s/he has authorized to operate (by name and position), unless there is a bona fide emergency. IF that was not done in this case, it might be a good choice the next time 'round.
17:48 May 8, 2012 by blue2012
A total lack of judgement from doctors and staff in the surgical room.
08:53 May 9, 2012 by karex
@Puddi, I can think of 3: Thailand, India and Brazil - all third world countries. For shame Sweden!
16:57 May 9, 2012 by cogito
@Puddi (#3),

In addition to the three nations mentioned directly above, add France, USA, Italy, Spain, Germany,Switzerland, Canada...all have better healthcare than Sweden.

Swedish healthcare is a disgrace.
22:33 May 9, 2012 by dizzymoe33
I hope the patient is reading this so they can sue the heck out the hospital!!! This is wrong on so many levels and even worse the hospital is keeping it a secret!!
18:42 May 10, 2012 by Tamm O'Shanter
... Shame on all those who didn't mention the Cuban healthcare system! Its absolutely wonderful!!

...and the ambulances turn up when called, with patients generally feeling BETTER after treatment
00:13 May 11, 2012 by Da Goat
I think this is an excellent thing (is this blatant age discrimination?)

the youngster is keen to learn and is amongst the professionals (well I hope they are otherwise the kid is the expert) This young person may go on to become Sweden's top surgeon yet everyone is jumping on them (pi55 poor I say ...encouragement people)

you guys are all getting confused as the situation!
09:27 May 11, 2012 by Max Reaver
true, never had much faith in the system. just hope whenever i go to hospital here, they do their job for the time being.

da goat is making a relli nice joke here! hahahaha
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