RN Doesn’t Follow Standardized Work, Exposes Patients to Risk of Disease
A number of you (thanks!) sent me this article from CNN about a Fort Lauderdale nurse who resigned — and may face criminal charges — for reusing disposable IV bags and chemical stress test supplies, thereby exposing patients to risk of hepatitis or HIV.
She was turned in by a co-worker who saw her violating the standard process:
Hospital managers learned of the problem when someone reported seeing the nurse using the same saline bag and tubing more than once when giving intravenous fluids to patients undergoing chemical cardiac stress tests.
The good thing is that somebody noticed that she wasn't following the standardized work, although it wasn't a direct supervisor or manager. The nurse certainly needs to be held accountable, but what about managers? Can managers be held responsible for what seems like an individual violation of rules? Back to the Wachter discussion from last week, what's the balance between a systems view (“no blame”) versus accountability?
It's unclear if this was a one-time problem or if it was this was the individual nurse's standard practice:
The hospital did not offer an explanation on how an employee could have continued a dangerous practice for five years without being noticed or admonished.
It's unclear how there would be proof of this — is it really a 5-year track record of continued risk and bad practice? It's prudent to assume the worst and test every patient who was under her care.
Assuming it WAS going on that way, every day, for five years — why didn't managers notice? Managers and hospital leaders can't hound employees every single minute, nor should they.
Rather than just pressing charges against the nurse, Qui Lan, I'd also ask these questions:
- What was the training process when she was new to the hospital? Yes, she was a qualified nurse, but was there training done about how that hospital does chemical stress tests?
- Were the correct supplies easy to get and always properly stocked?
- Did the nurse (and other nurses) have enough time to do their work properly?
- Did managers or supervisors ever verify that she (and other nurses) were following proper procedures?
- Was this just a single nurse who was cutting corners, or was this a wider problem?
- What other corrective action has been taken, other than accepting the nurse's resignation?
The hospital CEO said:
“This is an individual's unacceptable practice that once discovered was immediately corrected,” said James Thaw, CEO of Broward General Medical Center, in a written statement.
Let's certainly hope it was just one individual.
Lan's attorney says:
“Ms. Qui Lan has been a registered nurse for over 37 years providing excellent medical care to all of her patients. She has an excellent reputation in the medical community due to her professionalism and ethical manner. We are confident that once the facts surrounding this incident are revealed, Ms. Qui Lan will continue to be seen in the same light.”
Is this just “create some doubt” lawyer talk, is there more of a systemic problem behind this story? It will be interesting to follow this and see what comes out.
If you're a leader at another hospital, do you read this and then take steps to verify that the same thing isn't happening with one of your nurses, as hard as it might be to believe that it could happen where you are?