A few weeks ago I came across an article in a Virginia newspaper in which reporter Mike Owens wrote about the arrest of James Wright, who was indicted on four counts of aggravated sexual battery against different patients in a nursing home where he worked as a nurse’s aide from 2000 until 2007. The nursing facility, NHC HealthCare – Bristol, is one of 76 facilities owned by National HealthCare Corporation. According to the story, staff members—from peers to administrators—had known about Wright’s abuse of patients for years, but nothing was done to stop it until Patty Davenport, another nurse’s aide, frustrated and appalled that no action was being taken, lodged a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia.
To me, Davenport is a hero. But why did this take so long to come to light? A more recent article by Owens reports that several staff have accused the then director of nursing, Anne Franklin, of “trashing” their written complaints about Wright.
Through her attorney, Franklin denies this. I hope it’s not true. I’d like to think that any nurse who learned of such egregious acts would immediately take action to protect patients and blow the whistle long and hard.
In January, AJN published Case Study: Dying from a Stage IV Pressure Ulcer, by Jeanie S. Kayser-Jones, which told of the preventable and horribly painful death of a man in a nursing home. We all know that nursing home care is often substandard for reasons that may be beyond the charge nurse’s control: poor staffing and supervision, inadequate staff training, undercommitment of financial resources—and, for some facilities (and chains), an emphasis on revenue instead of quality. Our article spent some time examining a nurse’s ethical responsibility in a situation where the working conditions lead to poor care. Kayser-Jones asked: do you have a responsibility to report substandard working conditions that lead to substandard care (itself often tantamount to more overt abuse), and is it wrong to go on working at a facility where the care is inadequate, dangerous, or worse?