Former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse RaDonda Vaught is being charged with reckless homicide and abuse of an impaired adult after mistakenly administering the wrong medication that killed an elderly patient in 2017.
ANA believes that the criminalization of medical errors could have a chilling effect on reporting and process improvement. The Code of Ethics for Nurses states that while ensuring that nurses are held accountable for individual practice, errors should be corrected or remediated, and disciplinary action taken only if warranted.
COVID-19 has already exhausted and overwhelmed the nursing workforce to a breaking point. Nurses are watching this case and are rightfully concerned that it will set a dangerous precedent. ANA cautions against accidental medical errors being tried in a court of law.
Health care is highly complex and ever-changing, resulting in a high risk and error-prone system. Organizational processes and structures must support a “just culture”, which recognizes that health care professionals can make mistakes and systems may fail. All nurses and other health care professionals must be treated fairly when errors occur. ANA supports a full and confidential peer review process in which errors can be examined and system improvements and corrective action plans can be established. Swift and appropriate action should and must always be taken as the situation warrants.
Transparent, just, and timely reporting mechanisms of medical errors without the fear of criminalization preserve safe patient care environments. ANA maintains that this tragic incident must serve as reminder that vigilance and open collaboration among regulators, administrators, and health care teams is critical at the patient and system level to continue to provide high-quality care.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation’s 4.3 million registered nurses. ANA advances the profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting a safe and ethical work environment, bolstering the health and wellness of nurses, and advocating on health care issues that affect nurses and the public. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all. For more information, visit www.nursingworld.org. For high-resolution images of the ANA logo or photos of ANA leadership, please click here.