Will Texas Nurse Whistle-blower Case Have Dangerous Ripple Effect?

KERMIT, Tex. — It occurred to Anne Mitchell as she was writing the letter that she might lose her job, which is why she chose not to sign it. But it was beyond her conception that she would be indicted and threatened with 10 years in prison for doing what she knew a nurse must: inform state regulators that a doctor at her rural hospital was practicing bad medicine.

That’s from an article in today’s New York Times about a Texas nurse who’s being prosecuted for blowing the whistle on what she asserts were inappropriate medical practices by a doctor she worked with. We’ve posted on this as the case has developed and also written about it in the journal. Ultimately, the judgment is up to the court. But the concern we’ve expressed and which others have also voiced is that this will have the effect of silencing others who should be speaking out. In the process it may well reinforce old nurse–physician dynamics that profit no one. What do you think?

UPDATE: She was acquitted today (February 11)!Bookmark and Share

2010-02-11T17:35:19+00:00 February 7th, 2010|nursing perspective|5 Comments

About the Author:

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

5 Comments

  1. ninjanurse February 15, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Yes, threatening the nurses with prison time for acting according to ethical standards shows that the welfare of the patient counts for nothing.

  2. Mary February 14, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    I am appalled that this nurse had to stand trial for presenting facts about a physician who was becoming increasingly unsafe. Is it not our first duty as a nurse to protect the patient? How many other nurses will now hold their tongue when a medical professional is not practicing safe medicine or nursing>

  3. leetilson February 14, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    I have not been able to find any part of organized medicine that stood up for these nurses except nursing organizations.

    Where was the rest of organized medicine? Where were the doctors and hospitals?

    I am trying to collect more information about this case. Feel free to share or use any information you may find helpful.

    Lee Tilson
    http://www.rethinkingpatientsafety.com

  4. Rebekah MSN, RN-BC February 10, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    I have been sitting in the courtroom the last two days listening to testimony. It has been surreal. Today the Winkler County hospital Administrator testified that only direct care RN’s can report poor care, not “administrative RN’s” whose first duty is to the hospital. THe main focus of the trial has been standards of care, duty to report, freedom of speech, and the anonymous reporting system, and what is considered confidential patient information.

  5. Barbie RN, CCRN February 10, 2010 at 12:35 am

    I have been blasting this story to collegues all day, made a donation to the Texas Nurses Association and I’m ready to drive over to watch the trial! This is ridiculous and will have an impact of reporting!

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