By now, almost every nurse around the country has either followed or heard about the RaDonda Vaught verdict in Tennessee. Many nurses and other healthcare professionals are left wondering what this means for the future of the profession and for Just Culture – a concept designed to encourage reporting errors without fear of punishment and instead to focus on the systems that allowed the error to occur in the first place.
First, we would like to express our heartfelt sympathy to all the parties affected by this tragic event.
RaDonda Vaught is a former registered nurse convicted of criminally negligent homicide and impaired adult abuse after she administered vecuronium a powerful muscle paralytic instead of midazolam a benzodiazepine otherwise known by the brand name Versed. The wrong medication was pulled from
the automatic drug dispensing cabinet using the override function when Vaught searched the medication list by typing in “VE”. What followed were several aberrations in care by both Vaught and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).
“The real issue, in this case, is that there were no effective systems in place to prevent or detect the accidental selection, removal, and administration of a neuromuscular blocker that had been obtained via override.” – Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP)
So What Does This Mean for the Future of Nursing (and healthcare)?
Several experts and professional organizations have expressed disappointment with the Vaught verdict. They argue that criminalizing medical errors sets a dangerous precedent. Many have stated that nurses and others may think twice before reporting an error. They also point out that this verdict may cause nurses to leave the profession and less people may consider nursing as a career. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that an additional 275,000 registered nurses will be needed from 2020-2030. Reports prior to the Vaught case were finding an increase of nurses being named in lawsuits related to negligence and malpractice. It’s highly likely that nurses will see an even bigger increase after this case.
The Importance of a Personal Liability Policy
Every healthcare provider should consider a personal liability policy otherwise known as malpractice insurance. Medical malpractice can affect you. Don’t assume that your employer’s liability coverage will protect you while on the job. Generally, nurses working within a major hospital system (or other types of facilities) are covered under their employer’s liability coverage while working. However, you must understand that employer coverage is just that…employer coverage. The employer’s liability policy is in place for the best interest of them, not you. If you were named in a lawsuit, or threatened with action against your nursing license what would you do? If you have your own personal liability policy it’s as easy as a phone call to your insurance carrier before taking any other action or making any legal statements.
Your Professional Liability Policy Should:
- Protect YOUR Assets and YOUR License;
- Allow YOU to determine if you settle or go to battle in court (not your employer or insurance carrier);
- Provide YOU with License Defense Coverage.
Peace of Mind
Nurses, and other healthcare providers, enter their profession with hopes to make a difference in the world. Malpractice insurance is one of those things you hope to never use in your career. However, it’s one of the things you should not be without. If you want peace of mind as you complete your day-to-day duties as a healthcare provider, take the time to review your current policy and make sure you have defense covered in ADDITION to the limits and type of coverage you select, as well as 24/7/365 portable coverage.
The day after Nurses Week 2022 came to a close (05/13/2022), it was reported by news outlets that former TN registered nurse RaDonda Vaught will not serve jail time. Instead, Ms. Vaught will serve a three-year probation sentence and the opportunity to have her conviction expunged after completion of her supervised probation.
“This offense occurred in a medical setting. It was not motivated by any intent to violate the law.” – Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Jennifer Smith
Though leniency was granted by the judge, there is no doubt that this particular case has already made nurses and other healthcare providers ask the question, “what if?”
Exclusively written for cmfgroup.com
By: Michelle Batlle, BSN, RN
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexelsnurse practitionerphysician assistantprofessional liability