suicide of RN

U.S.A. Washington


I work at Seattle Childrens and would NOT recommend this as a place for employment. The article below confirms this. RN's are not supported at this hospital. Susan Heath is top nursing executive.


The suicide of a nurse who accidentally gave an infant a fatal overdose last year at Seattle Children's hospital has closed an investigation but opened wounds for her friends and family members, as they struggle to comprehend a second tragedy.

Kimberly Hiatt, 50, a longtime critical-care nurse at Children's, took her own life April 3. As a result, the state's Nursing Commission last week closed its investigation of her actions in the Sept. 19 death of Kaia Zautner, a critically ill infant who died in part from complications from an overdose of calcium chloride.

After the infant's death, the hospital put Hiatt on administrative leave and soon dismissed her. In the months following, she battled to keep her nursing license in the hopes of continuing the work she loved, despite having made the deadly mistake, friends and family members said.

To satisfy state disciplinary authorities, she agreed to pay a fine and to undergo a four-year probationary period during which she would be supervised at any future nursing job when she gave medication, along with other conditions, said Sharon Crum of Issaquah, Hiatt's mother.

"She absolutely adored her job" at Children's, where she had worked for about 27 years, said Crum. "It broke her heart when she was dismissed ... She cried for two solid weeks. Not just that she lost her job, but that she lost a child."

Just before her death, Hiatt had taken an advanced cardiac life-support certification exam to qualify for a job as a helicopter transport nurse and aced it, friends said. But a round of job applications and inquiries produced nothing, and friends said she was beginning to despair that she would ever find another job in nursing.

"She was basically a healer," said Donna Lawson, another friend. "She told me she lost everything."

Children's, in a statement, said: "Our deepest condolences go out to Kim's family. We respect the privacy of our current and former staff and will not discuss personal matters."

Children's and Hiatt ultimately entered into a settlement, with the help of the Washington State Nurses Association, which represents the nurses at Children's. Officials at those organizations declined to provide details. Crum and Hiatt's other family members said they were unable to reveal details as well because of nondisclosure conditions in the agreement.

Some of Hiatt's friends said they felt it was unfair for her to be fired so abruptly for what they characterized as a mathematical error.

"They canned her without fallback," said Gordy Pearcy, a friend who helped Hiatt get construction jobs when she was unable to find nursing work.

Pearcy, who runs a remodeling company, said he felt there was a double standard operating in health care. "This kind of thing happens with doctors, and they don't fire them, because it becomes a liability issue ... Doctors have their own insurance."

Crum, a retired nurse, noted that when she was working, hospitals always urged nurses to report errors, saying "write them up; we will back you."

Crum said she sympathized with the hospital, too. "They had a baby that died. It was the result of a human error. They have to do something. But to me, there were other alternatives than firing someone who had been a good, faithful nurse, and did not have a record as a sloppy nurse."

An investigation by state facilities licensing officials into this and two unrelated cases at Children's concluded in November that the hospital had "effective, adequate systems to prevent patient harm."

Hiatt's brother, Mike Hiatt, of Redmond, said his sister was very close to the seriously ill children she cared for, as well as their families. Many were among the hundreds who attended her memorial service earlier this month, along with many nursing colleagues, he said. "There were many, many people there who appreciated her service in nursing" and lauded her as a "relentless advocate for her patients and the families she cared for."

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

97 Articles; 21,242 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

How sad - two lives and two families devastated.


6 Posts

How sad. I've been an RN for 25 years and live in fear of making an error that might harm a patient. Yet our hospital is continually decreasing the level of staffing, requiring nurses to do more, take on added responsibilities/roles, (some that take us away from the patients' bedside- yet we still are responsible for that pt's care), spend more time documenting on computer systems that do not meet the needs of the user. The software is too complex and time consuming. Something is wrong when more time is spent in computer charting than in providing patient care. I do not work at Seattle Children's but I could say the same thing about the hospital at which I work. All staff will have second thoughts about reporting errors.


4 Posts

I worked at Seattle Childrens a while back and no longer work there anymore. It saddens me to hear of such tragedy. For a nurse who has dedicated 27 years of service to a hospital and be left in the cold from a honest mistake. It goes to show that although humans make errors the hospital is unable to support staff who make these errors. Im sure that nurses at Seattle Childrens will live in fear of honest reporting of medication errors. I hope that Seattle Children's will provide support to future nurses to compensate for the lack of support this nurse had.

I feel grateful that I no longer work at Seattle Childrens.


1 Post

How tragic. In the case of a death I would like to believe there was a debriefing of all involved and follow up both at the time of the original incident and the death of the nurse. More than likely there are more details than what is read in the media. It is getting to the point that there is no loyalty toward employees no matter how many years of service. In a place as large as Children's Hospital it is hard to believe that there would be no job available for this nurse elsewhere in the institution.


11 Posts

Specializes in cardiac, PAR.

I re-entered RN work 5 years ago after a 15 year break and have to say that the field has changed. RN's in hospitals have the most demanding job imaginable with the fewest resources. I never made a med error on the ACU where I worked, but on New Year's Eve when staffing was short (and I was swamped) I was cited for missing a critical lab value at the end of my shift. At my next review I was told I was a good nurse but either had to work more hours or leave. Her point was that I was not as quick or smooth as the full time nurses. I agreed and quit. I felt very degraded and unappreciated for the countless hours of ridiculous stress, no breaks, working late. And yes, the technology changes require constant rebooting. But this is not nursing. Its more akin to robotics. Patients feel it, too. They need real nurses.


50 Posts

This is exactly the kind of mentality hospitals have towards nurses that makes it impossible to be human. We are treated as a liability that hospitals try to find ways to cover by upping the ratio, and then we're always the scapegoat if any little thing goes wrong.

This reminds me of the first interveiw I ever got, were I stated that there will be a learning curve and I was sure I would make som mistakes. The educator practically yelled "NO! You can't make any mistakes, you must be perfect" and she was serious.

Stories like this one remind me of why I need to leave the floor. I just don't want to be the one whose head roles because of some mistake that more than likely was a culmination of multiple employees/departments missing something.


14 Posts

How terrible for all involved

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