Wisconsin Nurse being charged with criminal neglect

  1. what happened here is truly tragic -- but given the complex, understaffed and over worked conditions in most hospitals, well -- it, or something like it, could happen to many of us.

    the nurse's name is "Julie". there is a link at this web site to email support to this nurse. Please join me in letting Julie know that we are with her.

    ALL nursing organizations need to address this -- and muster as much support from other professional organizations to STOP THIS MADNESS of pressing criminal charges against a nurse who made an honest mistake.

    by the way, where is the ANA??????????????

    Since When Is It A Crime To Be Human?

    ismp.org says it so well:

    "The belief that a medication error could lead to felony charges, steep fines, and a jail sentence can also have a chilling effect on the recruitment and retention of healthcare providers--particularly nurses, who are already in short supply."

    Please use this link to give support to that RN.
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    About psalm_55

    Joined: Apr '06; Posts: 69; Likes: 4
    med-surg faculty
    Specialty: icu, neuro icu, nursing ed


  3. by   PANurseRN1
    Maybe the ANA will get around to addressing this problem when they're finished fighting for the rights of advanced pratice nurses. They're far too busy with them to be involved with "the little people" who are at the bedside 24/7.

    Certainly, this is a really troubling error. I'm not sure I understand how you can hook up an epidural bag to regular IV tubing. Where I work, the are sticker plastered all over epidurals saying "For Epidural Use Only." The set comes already primed. Then again, if you practice nursing long enough, you do have days when you aren't as sharp; that's how mistakes happen.

    I feel sorry for this nurse. I'm sure she is in agony over what happened. Thank goodness her colleagues and former pts. are stepping forward on her behalf.
  4. by   SharonH, RN
    Well I am the first one to have a problem with criminalizing medical errors especially medication mistakes of which I have made a few. Reading the report was chilling:


    She certainly should face disciplinary action on her license as well as the obligatory civil lawsuit but I am not sure she should go to jail. Who turned it over to the police in the first place? Of course they send people to jail if you kill someone in your car.......I have conflicting feelings on this particular case.
  5. by   PANurseRN1
    See, this will teach me to read the whole link first. Like Sharon stated, the complaint was disturbing. You certainly don't appreciate the impact of how this nurse violated the medication rights by simply reading the first link from ISMP.

    I don't think jail is appropriate, but wow...unless we are misssing some key information, the nurse in this case almost went out of her way to violate the safeguards in place to avoid such mistakes.

    My comment about the ANA stands, since it was a general comment on the absence of the ANA on issues that relate to the ordinary nurse.
  6. by   Indy
    If I understand the complaint correctly, the route by which it came to be the police's, or government's, business, is because the patient was under 18 (keeps calling her a child) and was on medicaid.

    It sounds to me like there may have been more than one nurse making it a practice to get meds for the patient, administer them, etc, THEN do all the computer stuff, i.e., armband, scan, etc. I wonder how long the hospital had been using the barcode system prior to this incident, as such shortcuts would be most common not long after a change in systems.

    I'll bet that nurses in that entire hospital will never again consider showing a patient a drug, any drug, as part of a little educational talk. I can see how the nurse did this, but it's not something I would have thought to do if I hadn't read about the incident. Speaking as someone who came to within a hair of hanging dobutamine to piggyback with my dobutamine (instead of NS), I do think that we can all make serious errors and need to kick ourselves in the pants once in a while. But jail? That's over the top. We already know lives are on the line, thank you. I'm normally pretty up front about my mistakes, but I'm watching trends, and I don't like the trends. If it gets to be the norm to send the nurse to jail for a med error, you better believe I'll be covering my butt, and watching out for my coworkers. That'll mean no variances! Weeeee!
  7. by   augigi
    I agree that this was a bad error, but I also agree that the nurse should not be criminally liable - I thought the primary thing with that was intent, and I'm sure she had no intent to cause this woman's death.
  8. by   Jolie
    As I've said on another thread, this nurse will most certainly (and appropriately) be subject to BON action and a civil lawsuit. But for the life of me, I can't see what is to be gained by pursuing criminal charges that might land her in prison for what appears to be a terrible mistake, or set of mistakes.

    Unless there is evidence of willful and deliberate misconduct, there is no need to remove her from society. If it is determined that she is incapable of safe nursing practice, then revoke her license, but what good will it to place her behind bars?
  9. by   augigi
    Well I for one have sent an email of support to the nurse involved. Imagine how terrible she must feel, let alone the threat of criminal action hanging over her!

    As in all things, the punishment should fit the crime.
  10. by   Ruby Vee
    [font="comic sans ms"]we all make mistakes. anyone who says they haven't is either lying or not smart enough to realize that they've made a mistake. so i cannot imagine what there is to gain by prosecuting a nurse for a medication error unless she falsified charting in an attempt to cover it up. this is just plain wrong!
  11. by   HappyNurse2005
    she certainly doesn't sound like she's covering it up-she admitted she had no order to get out the epidural medicine, stated that she subverted protocol (using the medication system) because caring for the patient was her priority, etc. she doesn't seem like she's hiding anything
    so i cannot imagine what there is to gain by prosecuting a nurse for a medication error unless she falsified charting in an attempt to cover it up. this is just plain wrong!
  12. by   clemmm78
    What a tragic error, for all those involved. Making an error, especially a medication error, is one of the things that makes us the most vulnerable. I know when I make a med error, it reminds me of the power my decision-making has and that I could be the difference between life and death. A very, very frightening prospect if I sit down and think about it.

    While it is never a bad idea to take stock and realize that we need to be careful, especially in times of low staffing and rush-around workloads, if the spectre of criminal charges becomes a reality, then I think we can say good-bye to many potentially wonderful healthcare professionals.
  13. by   Simplepleasures
    In a nursing home I used to work in,an RN altered a MD order which resulted in a patients death, the DOJ was not involved in that case, could it be that it was because the patient was in her 80's not a teenager? In this incident an RN WILLFULLY and DELIBERATLY reinserted a G-tube in a Peg Tube site, the doctor's order had read "Send patient out to ER to have feeding tube replaced", this RN added the words,"unless nurse can reinsert". The tube was in the peritoneum and the patient died as a reult of MASSIVE peritonitis. The nursing home did not self report to state until the family sued and the nurse was not discharged until after they had to self report to the state. This RN was a Unit Manager the nursing home absolutely just loved, yet they fired me for reporting them to the Wisconsin BQA (state) in an unrelated matter, far less serious. I have contacted the Madison newspaper and have told this to them in hopes of helping Julie Thao in her defense.

    We need to have protection under the law a strong Federal law for nurses or else we may all be facing criminal charges as the nursing homes and hospitals continue to have "gotton away with murder". The BQA (state ) does not enforce the laws that are already in palce to protect patients and hold the healthcare facilities responsible for understaffing which has probably caused many a injury or death. The Regulating and Liscensing Department only slapped the wrist of this RN who caused this 80 year old patient's death, she continued to work in the field and still does.
    Last edit by Simplepleasures on Nov 19, '06 : Reason: TOS issue
  14. by   jo272wv
    So this is an issue that will effect us all. So it is up to all of us to not just write comments here but take it a step further. Write your congressmen, write the AMA, ask them to initiate legislation that set guidlines that prohibit persuing criminal action unless intent to harm is established first.

    don't wait until it becomes the norm to prosecute nurses for med errors before something is done. nip it in the butt now!!!!