It’s been just over a week since RaDonda Vaught was convicted in the death of a patient for a prescription drug mix-up, and the healthcare community is already seeing an impact.
Annie Kirby, a Registered Nurse, said that she has worked at a number of hospitals across Middle Tennessee, most recently at the St. Thomas Hospital for Specialty Surgery. “I turned in my notice last Wednesday,” Kirby explained.
She said that it was a difficult decision to leave her job as a nurse, as she has been working in the nursing community for nearly 15 years. She explained that she has worked in many different settings, including neuro ICU, cardiac ICU, PACU, surgical and medical ICU, and that she has devoted 15 years of her life to this career.
Kirby has always been interested in helping people and making a difference in their lives. She became a nurse so that she could use her skills and knowledge to do just that.
After a former Vanderbilt nurse was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide for a fatal medication mix-up, she has reluctantly stepped away from her calling.
“I didn’t think they would convict her, it was emotional and then I thought what is next? This is a very slippery slope. If I forget to put a bed rail up and walk out of my room and my confused patient gets up and falls and ends up dying from that, am I facing criminal charges because we were short-staffed and overwhelmed and I just forgot? Where does the line end now? Where are we headed and it didn’t feel like it was anywhere good and that was very scary,” said Kirby.
The possibility of being held criminally accountable scared Kirby out of her career. “I didn’t go into nursing thinking I could be arrested and placed in jail, taken away from my family and everyone I love.”
“I’m not the only one,” Kirby said of her decision to leave nursing. She explained that she posted her concerns on social media and received many responses from others who are also leaving the profession.
“The response was overwhelming. Multiple people said yes they had left altogether, many more are leaving bedside or are planning to leave bedside nursing,” said Kirby.
“The wide-reaching repercussions of this case will impact anyone that seeks healthcare,” she said. “You are going to have nurses who don’t want to come forward and admit errors and admit mistakes when you have the consideration of potential jail time facing you for a mistake, an accident, or a lapse in attention. This is going to cause people to hide or to not come forward with mistakes.”
Kirby said that this will have a ripple effect that will impact the system that allowed the error to happen in the first place, and could potentially allow the same mistake to happen again.