OR nurse claims she got fired for protecting patient

By Steve Gonzalez | Apr 4, 2007

St. Joseph's Hospital in Highland

A former operating room nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital in Highland filed suit in Madison County Circuit Court April 4, claiming her termination was in violation of the Whistleblower Act.

Julia Emig claims that in July 2006, she was serving as the operating room staff nurse when a doctor who was not performing the surgery, entered the operating room cursing about a dispute he allegedly had with hospital administrators while approaching a patient already under general anesthesia.

According to Emig, she believed the doctor was not properly scrubbed and that he was not wearing proper emergency room attire and that if he continued to enter the room, he would penetrate the sterile field required for the safety of the patient.

"Based on plaintiff's reasonable beliefs and in order to protect the life and health of the patient undergoing surgery, plaintiff touched said doctor's elbow, thereby preventing the doctor from endangering the life and health of the patient," the complaint states.

She claims she was fired for her actions on July 31, 2006, after the hospital refused to let her work after the incident.

Emig claims she refused to violate rules that require the circulating nurse to coordinate patient safety in the operating room during an invasive or operative procedure.

She claims her termination has damaged her in that she has lost wages and other benefits of full employment and that she has suffered embarrassment, humiliation, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Represented by Ferne Wolf of St. Louis, Emig is seeking a judgment for compensatory and punitive damages, back pay with interest, reinstatement or front pay and costs of the litigation and expert and attorney fees.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Dan Stack.

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