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What happens when a nurse makes a mistake?

On Behalf of | May 25, 2022 | Nurse Licensing |

Nurse RaDonda Vaught’s story is making headlines throughout the country. It started during one of her shifts back in 2017. The nurse made a mistake. She admitted her error, an error in medication that led to the death of a 75-year-old patient. She then faced criminal charges.

If convicted, the charges could have resulted in almost a decade of imprisonment.

A jury found the nurse guilty of two charges of criminally negligent homicide and abuse of an impaired adult. The court sentenced the nurse to three years of supervised probation

How did the medical community react?

The American Nurses Association (ANA) as well as the state nurse licensing authority noted that medical errors happen and voiced appreciation for the lenient sentence. This is especially true in a culture that often fails to provide organizational structures that support medical staff and reduce the risk of such mistakes.

As noted in one review of the case by nursing professionals, nursing is often akin to a “high-speed chase.” Today’s medical communities expect nurses to admit, chart, medicate, assess, educate, and discharge with minimal breaks. This is a recipe for disaster — disasters like the one discussed above. Perhaps this situation, the piece goes on to conjecture, will lead to much needed change. To a culture that will put safety ahead of profit.

What does this mean for nurses and other medical professionals? What happens when a medical professional makes a mistake?

Regardless of the impact on the continued debate over safety and profit, the case provides an important opportunity to discuss what happens when mistakes are made. In these situations, nurses can face three potential issues:

  • Criminal charges. As discussed in the case above, criminal charges are a possibility.
  • Civil case. The family could also pursue financial compensation by filing a lawsuit against the professional.
  • License review. The nurse could also find themselves under investigation by the state licensing authority. Repercussions could include fines, suspension or even revocation of their nursing license.

The repercussions can be serious, so a serious response is warranted.

Attorney John Rivas is responsible for this communication

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