I don’t know if alot of people in the patient safety movement or nursing know about what’s going on in Texas, but they should. Today the Sunday New York Times ran a story about a nurse in Texas, Anne Mitchell, who reported a physician for disturbing practice and was, in turn, indicted by the state for her courageous action and now potentially faces ten years in jail. The story is amazing and I will write about it more in the coming days. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/07/us/07nurses.html?ref=us. This kind of institutional or governmental retaliation against nurses is not uncommon. A nurse in Pasadena, who worked at Huntington Memorial Hospital was fired for insubordination when she told an intern that it was unsafe to intubate a patient on a medical floor and arranged to have the patient transferred to the ICU. She was fired and then fined by the state board of nursing.
I want to find out many more details about the Texas case, but this kind of action against RNs– or anyone else for that matter — who reports a physician or hospital higher up will have a chilling effect on patient safety. It is completely antithetical to the no-blame culture that is the only kind that will foster patient safety. It sends a message to any so-called subordinate — you challenge superiors at the risk of your career, even, in this case, your freedom. This case reminds me of one that happened in Australia several years ago, when nurse Toni Hoffman in Queensland, blew the whistle on a surgeon who was responsible for the deaths of many patients. Before she was proved right, she was hounded by the state medical association, her hospital, and even some Queensland political representatives. http://www.ourbodiesourblog.org/blog/2009/04/intensive-care-nurse-toni-hoffman, (The book Sick To Death was written about the case, http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Sick-to-Death/Hedley-Thomas/e/9781741148817 Hoffman wrote a story in my new book, When Chicken Soup Isn’t Enough: Stories of Nurses Standing Up for Themselves, Their Patients and Their Profession, which will be published by Cornell University Press in April. http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/cup_searchbar_list.taf?searchtype=book&keyword=When+Chicken+Soup+Isn%27t+Enough. Patient advocates and nurses need to find out more about this case and do something about it. Like write the governor of Texas!!