On Friday, a nurse who killed a patient with a fatal medication error was sentenced to probation. Hundreds of nurses gathered outside the Nashville courthouse in support of their colleague.
Vaught was convicted in March on two criminal charges for a drug-swap death in 2017 that involved her administering vecuronium, a powerful paralytic, instead of Versed, a sedative.
Nurses and Medication Errors
As a nurse, she was expected to protect patients from injury and death.
But when Vaught injected 75-year-old Charlene Murphey with the wrong medication, she killed her. The sedative she was supposed to give her, Versed, was substituted for the paralyzing drug vecuronium.
Her defense argued that she did not have the proper training to use an automated medicine dispenser, and that Vanderbilt’s health system had flaws in its procedures that allowed her to override safety safeguards.
Vaught was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult. The case became a flashpoint in national discussions about nursing shortages and patient safety. But hundreds of nurses and supporters gathered outside the Nashville courthouse Friday, warning that this conviction and sentencing will demoralize an already exhausted and overworked workforce. And it will make healthcare professionals reluctant to report medical errors because they are afraid of retaliation.
Medication Errors and Patient Safety
What kind of nurse was RaDonda Vaught?
The case of former Tennessee nurse RaDonda Vaught became a national flashpoint in conversations about nursing shortages and patient safety. The prosecution and conviction of Vaught for criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult in the death of Charlene Murphey was a reminder that even the most rigorous safeguards can fail to protect patients from harm, as it did in this case.
As a result, the conviction and trial brought widespread backlash from nurses and other healthcare professionals on social media. The resulting protests inspired a grassroots movement, which drew nurses from as far away as Wisconsin and Massachusetts to Nashville on Friday night for an action that aimed to raise awareness about the risks of nursing errors and their legal consequences.
Historically, medical errors are largely handled through nursing boards for professional discipline and civil courts for legal consequences. The Vaught trial, however, changed that. Now, medical errors will be increasingly criminalized, a trend that is not without serious implications for patients’ health and the nursing profession.
Medication Errors and the Criminal Justice System
What kind of nurse was RaDonda Vaught?
She was a nurse, and her error in injecting an elderly woman with the wrong medication is a reminder that errors don’t always involve malicious intent or intoxication.
safetSeveral patienty experts worry that criminal prosecutions for medical errors, like the one Vaught received in Tennessee, set a dangerous precedent. They say it can make it harder for hospitals to collect and analyze data on medical errors and to learn from them, thereby making healthcare systems less safe in the future.
The APSF believes that this prosecution was unjust and counterproductive because it placed blame in the wrong place. The prosecutor focused on the nurse’s actions rather than addressing system and human failures that led to the error. It also ignored the principles of “just culture” that are now widely accepted and improve healthcare. It also stifled open and transparent learning as healthcare professionals were concerned about retribution from patients and their families.
Medication Errors and the Nursing Profession
A nurse is a critical part of the healthcare system. They are the ones who administer medication to patients, give injections, check vital signs and monitor lab results.
Medication errors happen regularly in nursing, and they can have a serious impact on patient safety. These mistakes can range from simple to complex, but they all share one common characteristic: they are caused by human error.
In order to reduce the incidence of medication errors, it is important for nurses to have adequate knowledge about the medications they are administering. They need to know the name of each drug, its generic and brand names, how it works, side effects, contraindications, and other information.
Nurses also need to be aware of the legal issues associated with medication errors and how they can be prevented. This knowledge is crucial for ensuring the health and safety of patients. Moreover, it can help nurses ensure the quality of care.
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