Late Friday afternoon I spoke with Clair Jordan, the executive director of the Texas Nurses Association. Jordan and others at the TNA have been working in support of two Texas nurse whistleblowers, Anne Mitchell and Vicki Galle, who in June were fired from their jobs, arrested, and indicted on third-degree–felony criminal charges, Jordan said. Mitchell and Galle had filed an anonymous complaint with the Texas Medical Board against a physician at their workplace, Winkler County Memorial Hospital, in Kermit, Texas. The nurses believed the physician to have acted in ways that jeopardized patient care; the complaint, in documenting examples of this care, identified patients by their case number. The physician complained; the local sheriff investigated; charges were filed; the nurses lost their jobs.
The charge, said Jordan “involves their use of inappropriate information of patients. They were asked to give something to the board to say why they thought the physician’s care was not best practice so the board could see their concerns.”
Barbara Olsen, a nurse blogging about health care safety at Florence dot com, writes: “In a healthy system, reports of concern about licensed professionals result in peer-review. In a sick system, reports of concern result in acts that punish those who raise them (and intimidate those who might consider raising similar concerns in the future).” Dozens of nurses have made similar comments at allnurses.com.
This took place in a state that has a whistleblower protection law; according to the American Nurses Association, that law protects nurses who report “a practitioner or a facility for exposing a patient to risk of harm due to a failure to conform to minimal professional standards.” Jordan says that on Wednesday of this week a second hearing will be held. She believes, she said, that the judge will determine whether to take the case to trial.
She also spoke poignantly about the irony of the harsh consequences for nurses trying to protect their patients. “I think it’s very sad,” she said. “To be advocating for a group of patients—advocacy that involves asking that the physician be reviewed by his peers—and to have criminal charges filed and then in turn to be fired. . . ”
Jordan said that these nurses need help paying their legal fees. Go to the Web site of the TNA to make a donation.