ANA, TNA Release Statement on RaDonda Vaught Conviction

Together, the associations stated that, like many other nurses following this case, they were hoping for a different outcome.

Following the recent verdict of former nurse RaDonda Vaught, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the Tennessee Nurses Association (TNA) have co-released a statement expressing regret about how this outcome might affect nursing professionals and patient outcomes.1

“Like many nurses who have been monitoring this case closely, we were hopeful for a different outcome,” stated the associations. “It is a sad day for all of those who are involved, and the families impacted by this tragedy.”

Furthermore, the associations added that, “The nursing profession is already extremely short-staffed, strained and facing immense pressure—an unfortunate multi-year trend that was further exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. This ruling will have a long-lasting negative impact on the profession.”

The verdict, which ANA/TNA labeled in their statement as “deeply distressing,” found former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse RaDonda Vaught guilty of reckless homicide and impaired adult abuse after she unintentionally killed a patient by injecting her with the wrong medication in 2017.

Vaught was responsible for caring for 75-year-old Charlene Murphey, who was admitted to the center on account of a brain injury.2 Although Murphey was prescribed the sedative benzodiazepine (Versed) to calm her before receiving a scan in an MRI-like machine, Vaught accidentally grabbed vecuronium, a powerful paralyzer, and administered it to Murphy without noting the difference, despite that fact that vecuronium is a powder and benzodiazepine is a liquid. Murphey passed away before the mistake had been realized.

Multiple nursing organizations anxiously followed the trial. In anticipation of a potential verdict, Rebecca Love, Chief Clinical Officer of IntelyCare, a nursing agency with over 1000 facility partners, stated to Oncology Nursing News®, “The loss of this patient’s life should not be overlooked in this story, but we must acknowledge the failure of a broken system that allowed a nurse to work while being short-staffed, overworked, and unsupported—not the nurse herself—as the culprit that caused this loss to occur.”

“Vaught’s case is representative of a systemic problem, not a nursing problem,” Love continued. “Rather than criminally prosecuting a nurse, we should be cross-examining the healthcare system that under-staffs its floors and overworks its nurses, making room for tragedies like this to happen. Healthcare needs an overhaul, for everyone’s safety and for the future of the nursing profession.”

Love concluded that, in her opinion, a guilty verdict will result in an exodus of nursing professionals greater than the 1 observed during the pandemic.

It will remain to be seen what the lasting impact of the verdict will be. In the meantime, many nurses continue to argue that cases such as Vaught’s do not deserve to be criminally prosecuted when there are more effective ways to deal with medical errors.

“We are deeply distressed by this verdict and the harmful ramifications of criminalizing the honest reporting of mistakes,” stated ANA/TNA.

In their statement, ANA/TNA stressed that the result of this trial will yield harmful ramifications by criminalizing the criminal reporting of mistakes.

“Health care delivery is highly complex,” the 2 associations stated. “It is inevitable that mistakes will happen, and systems will fail. It is completely unrealistic to think otherwise. The criminalization of medical errors is unnerving, and this verdict sets into motion a dangerous precedent. There are more effective and just mechanisms to examine errors, establish system improvements and take corrective action. The non-intentional acts of Individual nurses like RaDonda Vaught should not be criminalized to ensure patient safety.”

References

  1. Statement in response to the conviction of nurse RaDonda Vaught. ANA Enterprise. News release. March 25, 2022. Accessed March 28, 2022. https://bit.ly/3LcDwqC
  2. Kelman, B. Former nurse found guilty in accidental injection death of 75-year-old patient. NPR. March 25, 2022. Accessed March 28, 2022. https://n.pr/3JMYFY9