NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The healthcare community is seeing an impact after former Nashville nurse RaDonda Vaught was convicted in the death of a patient for a prescription drug mix-up.
Annie Kirby said that she has worked at a number of hospitals across Middle Tennessee as a Registered Nurse, most recently at the St. Thomas Hospital for Specialty Surgery. “I turned in my notice last Wednesday,” explained Kirby.
She said it was a difficult decision as a single mother whose been working in the nursing community for nearly 15 years. “[I] primarily worked in intensive care settings; neuro ICU, cardiac ICU, PACU, surgical and medical ICU. Fifteen years of my life devoted to this; early mornings, late nights, overtime.”
It was a passion Kirby fell into early on, with nursing becoming part of her identity. “I’ve been called into medicine since I was little and really enjoy helping people and getting the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and using my skills and knowledge to do that.”
It’s a calling that she has reluctantly stepped away from after a jury found former Vanderbilt nurse RaDonda Vaught guilty on two counts, including criminally negligent homicide for a fatal medication mix-up.
“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 thought that she could be 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.”
She said she isn’t alone. Kirby posted her concerns on social media, along with her decision to leave the nursing field, and a number of others responded that they are doing the same.
“The response was overwhelming. Multiple people said yes they had left altogether, many many more are leaving bedside or are planning to leave bedside nursing,” said Kirby.
The repercussions are wide-reaching in this case, she said impacting anyone that seeks healthcare. “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, a lapse in attention, are you going to be quite so willing to come forth with that information knowing that it’s not just losing your job, it’s not just losing your license, it’s not just facing potential civil charges, it’s now criminal and that’s a whole different level that’s going to cause people to hide or to not come forward with mistakes.”
Kirby added that will ultimately impact the system that allowed the error to happen in the first place, opening up the opportunity for the same mistake to happen again.
News 2 reached out to the Tennessee Nurses Association, as well as the American Nurses Association to see if they have seen a similar trend of nurses resigning. A spokesperson responded saying they can’t provide specific examples of nurses quitting following the verdict, but that the ruling will have a long-lasting negative impact on the profession.
A Facebook group organizing a march for RaDonda Vaught ahead of her May 13 sentencing has already garnered more than 10,000 members.