My Motives. My Purpose. My Dream.

….Having just been released from the hospital for the second time in a week, I came home optimistic and ready to get back to work, scheduling more meetings with state health committee members, cleaning up my draft of the healthcare whistleblower bill I want to see passed, and setting up meetings with patients that wanted to help in the effort.

To my surprise….well, maybe not such a surprise…I was presented with yet another situation in which nurse(s) didn’t want to be affiliated with me because of what a Board of Nursing had to say about me several years ago, and the opinions of SEVERAL nurse bloggers who took it upon themselves to continue their assassination of my character not even knowing the full extent of the details involved in my case with Banner and the AZBON.

Its unfortunate. So here are the true facts— The AZBON LEFT OUT key witnesses that could have exonerated me and testified that I DID FOLLOW HOSPITAL POLICY when educating my patient. The AZBON left out that the Nurse Manager on my case Frank Fausto, lied when asked if I went up the chain of command to report a patient safety concern. The AZBON left out key information from the medical records that indeed shows I initiated a nurse order and has kept the medical record locked. The Arizona Board of Nursing has allowed nurses who have harmed patients, violated HIPPA, ammassed several aggravated DUI’s. diverted drugs, and even killed patients—back out there to practice with only the slap of a hand and a private reprimand.

Here are some more facts: I never hurt a patient in my life. I never under dosed or overdosed a patient. I never stole drugs. I never came to work intoxicated. I never left my posts. I never neglected or failed my patients.

Perfect? That was never a claim on my part. Ever. I was, in fact, just like you. Trying hard to toe the line in a corporatized environment that made me call into question my sense of morals and ethics every day. But social media and a board hell bent on painting a picture can do a whole lot to your life.

But the American Nurses Association wants you to have “moral courage.” They want you to stand up for your patients no matter what. What they don’t tell you about are the consequences to that.

Well, folks, here they are.  The best part?  You’re a criminal —for life. You don’t get to have a life anymore.

Truth be told, this nation never gave its people the option to choose those who have changed our way of being, our way of life, or our way of thinking—aside from a President or local government officials. No one handed out ballots for people like Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks or even Florence Nightingale. And before you start screaming to the masses, I am NOT comparing myself to them, ya dig?

Here’s the thing. People just saw a problem and spoke up. And did something. And didn’t stop doing something until the problem was fixed. I live by what is called a categorical imperative. I learned this in my undergrad years and never forgot it. It was the very heart of my  nursing practice:

“You do for the sake of doing, not for what it will get you or where it will get you or how it will impact your personal circumstances or your comfort or your reputation—you do that which will benefit the greatest amount of people for the better.”

This was the spirit that kept me going up the chain of command to report a patient safety violation on the night of April 12, 2011. Its the same spirit that kept me fighting for my license and the same spirit that kept me fighting for the first amendment rights a board of nursing wanted to take from me.

It is the same spirit that has kept me fighting to protect the interests of nurses and patients today. My license may have been taken, but nurses are continuing to be harmed and patients continue to die TODAY.

Want to know my motive straight from me? There it is. So lets quit with the rumors. If I wanted to profit I would have finished the damn book by now and Lord knows I have enough material for three.

What matters to me is making sure not one more nurse loses their livelihood, their ability to provide for their families, their ability to adhere to a code of ethics they swore to uphold, impacting the rising number of senseless deaths each year  that result from nurses unable to report unsafe situations or medical/surgical errors they know about.

You think you are in a state that is covered? You’d be surprised. I was. And its why I have been trying to fix it. I’m not in this for a license. I’m not in this for revenge. I’m in this because too many nurses and patients are getting hurt, and quite frankly, that IS HOW LAWS GET CHANGED. By people getting hurt. Or by a hole in the justice system.

Thankfully I don’t need permission or approval to get published. I don’t need permission to go see lawmakers or to make changes to current legislation, or to go speak before committee.

I don’t need permission or approval to be ME. And to be authentic and not watered down.

I don’t need permission to be part of a change movement.

I don’t need permission to help right what is so very wrong in our profession right now.

I don’t need to be “liked” to make change that benefits my colleagues and patients or the future of this profession.

I don’t need to be “perfect.”

All I “need” is the desire to do good, to change what is bad, and to help make it better so no one else goes through the same thing.

Want to fault me for that? Hold it against me? Judge me for it? Fine.

But in the same moment, ask yourself what you’ve done to not only walk the harried journey it takes to get there—but to accomplish the goals.

Until then, judge me not for the fact I spoke up and had ALOT of false things said about me and people who continue to HATE me.

Judge me for the fact I am a human being who is seeing other human beings get hurt and I’m just trying to do my part to make it right.

Fault me for that? Cool. Judge me for it? Look at yourself when you do it.

Try and make my voice useless and irrelevant– and my contribution to this profession I earned my right into ( I worked hard for that BSN and MSN just like you did)  and sacrificed to be a part of?

Never.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind Closed Doors #25: “Good Samaritans and Undertakers” Are We Protected?

Information:  White v. Advanced Neuromodulation Systems, Inc., 4732 SCCA (1/14/2011)-FL

Summary: The ‘undertaking’ doctrine may not be what you think!

 

 Disclaimer: Due to the overly sensitive and backward nature of the state I reside in, my nurse attorney Teressa Sanzio has asked me to clarify that I am not practicing law on my blog, rather, targeting these articles toward educational activities that empower good, safe, ethically sound nursing practice. Thank You.

We usually hear of lawsuits that, for the most part, focus on physicians and hospitals. In this most unusual case, it’s the nurse that the patient and his wife ultimately held responsible for the injury caused to the patient. What’s baffling…is that the nurse involved was not practicing in the capacity of a Registered Nurse, rather, she was employed as a device technician and was working well within the scope and regulations set forth by her employer Advanced Neuromodulation Systems (ANS). Her careful documentation would become the highlight of a case that should cause us all to think twice about the Good Samaritan Laws in the states we live in, and to what extent they protect us as nurses. Here, it’s referred to as the Undertaker’s Doctrine which “provides that whenever one undertakes to provide a service to others, whether one does so gratuitously or by contract, the individual who undertakes to provide the service—i.e., the ‘undertaker’—thereby assumes a duty to act carefully and to not put others at an undue risk of harm…The doctrine comes into play where a plaintiff alleges a defendant voluntarily took an action which, although statutorily authorized, is not required.”(White, 2011)

     Here’s some background on the major players in and unfortunate sequence of events that resulted in the paralysis of a patient. Advanced Neuromodulation Systems (ANS) is the manufacturer of implantable spinal cord simulators used for patients who experience chronic back pain. “PMS” is a separate company that “ANS” contracts with to do the sales and servicing end of the business. “PMS” employs technicians to program the spinal cord stimulators. Some of their employees have nursing backgrounds–though it’s not necessary to have a medical or nursing background to perform the functions of programming the devices. The employees who perform this function have no access to the medical records or health histories of patients. Should a client have health or medical questions, PMS instructs its employees to refer those concerns to a physician. Wendy Bolin was one of these employees, and in fact, was the employee  “ANS” assigned to manage the spinal cord stimulator in question throughout this case. Dr. Moyer is the neurosurgeon who initially saw the patient and implanted the device for chronic back pain relief. Dr. Waks was the primary care physician of the patient who had the spinal cord stimulator implanted. Finally, there was a second unnamed neurosurgeon who the patient consulted with shortly before becoming partially paralyzed.

Mr. White initially made contact with Dr. Moyer, a neurosurgeon, early in 2004 for help with chronic back pain. Dr. Moyer recommended a spinal cord stimulator be implanted, explained the risks and benefits of the procedure (which included infection), and Mr. White agreed to the procedure having had the surgery performed sometime in April of 2004. Wendy Bolin, the technician who would be assigned to program Mr. White’s device, became acquainted with him preoperatively and explained her role. It’s unexplained how Mr. White was privy to Wendy’s nursing background, but the court documents emphasize that he was well aware that her role was one of a technician and not that of a nurse. Mr. White first contacted Wendy one day after the device implantation complaining of “seepage” from the incision site. She advised him to call Dr. Moyer, the surgeon who implanted it, for follow up on the issue. He followed those instructions and spoke with Dr. Moyer’s PA who told Mr. White over the phone that the “seepage wasn’t unusual given the circumstances.” (White, 2011) (those “circumstances” were never made clear during the proceedings).

Wendy Bolin and Mr. White had no further contact between June 2004 and January 10, 2005– when he called to advise her that the pain stimulator was not working properly and that there was a cyst next to the site. She made arrangements to meet Mr. White at Dr. Moyers’ office within the hour of his phone call. While reprogramming the stimulator she saw purulent discharge coming from the incision site. She told Mr. White he needed to see Dr. Moyer for follow up immediately. He responded that Dr. Moyer was refusing to see him due to an unpaid medical bill but that he would go see his primary care physician instead. Wendy again insisted he follow up with Dr. Moyer.

Concerned about Mr. White’s inability to see the neurosurgeon, Wendy speaks with the scheduling staff in his office and explains that Mr. White must have a follow up appointment as soon as possible to have the incision site evaluated. She leaves her programming documentation as well as note with her concern about the “purulent discharge” at the surgical site for Dr. Moyer before leaving. Despite Wendy’s efforts, Mr. White is still unable to get an appointment. Three days after meeting with Wendy at Dr. Moyers’ office he presents to his primary care physician, Dr. Waks, who assesses that there is the presence of yellow drainage at the surgical site. He prescribes an antibiotic and strongly advises Mr. White to return to Dr. Moyer’s office for an evaluation. Mr. White returns to see Dr. Waks two weeks later for a follow up appointment —still having been refused an appointment with Dr. Moyer…Dr. Waks would not come into contact with Mr. White again until April of 2005 when, at that time, he advised Mr. White that the site had become infected again. He again urged that the patient return to Dr. Moyer so the device can be removed.

On May 24, 2005 Mr. White makes contact with Wendy, at which time she inquires about the incision site. He mentions that its still oozing now and then but that it’s “okay.” As she has previously, Wendy advises him to make an appointment with Dr. Moyer. He sets an appointment to have the stimulator reprogrammed on June 1st, 2005. Wendy is unavailable for the visit so a  “PMS” colleague, Dawn Dunham, steps in for her. After reprogramming the stimulator, her concerns about the incision site drive Dawn to seek the assistance of Dr. Moyer’s PA—who reassures her and Mr. White that “there isn’t anything to worry about.” The PA then sets a follow up appointment for Mr. White to be seen in two weeks. Dawn then briefs Wendy Bolin about the office visit with Mr. White, adding that an appointment has been set.

 **Court records do not reveal who did it….but Mr. White’s appointment was cancelled**

Exasperated, Wendy Bolin pays a visit to Dr. Moyer’s office by herself to investigate what is going on. After speaking with the scheduling staff she learns that Mr. White has been denied a visit with Dr. Moyer because of an unpaid medical bill and that it must be paid before he will be able to schedule any further appointments. She goes one step further and meets with Dr. Moyer himself to plead Mr. White’s case and relay her concerns about the surgical site. Dr. Moyer refuted the notion that he would deny any patient needed care. She left his office feeling as if something would finally be done to help Mr. White…

Mr. White begins seeing a new pain management physician just a few weeks later. Wendy meets him at the office to program the stimulator and is present for the consultation. The physician also advises Mr. White to go back and have the device removed by Dr. Moyer. He again turns to his primary care physician, Dr. Waks—only this time Mr. White is complaining of  new “numbness in his legs.” At this point he is referred to another neurosurgeon for further evaluation—during this visit Mr. White is given the unfortunate diagnoses of peripheral neuropathy. *It’s unfortunate because the diagnosis was WRONG*

Wendy Bolin was updated about the new diagnosis on August 12, 2005. Just two days later, Mr. White became partially paralyzed due to an infection at the surgical site that caused compression on his spinal cord. When Dr. Moyer was made aware of Mr. White’s condition he remove the stimulator immediately, lamenting that had he knew about Mr. White’s symptoms and complaints it would have come out sooner. The Whites felt Wendy was obligated to do more– and thus held her responsible for not making sure—herself—that Dr. Moyer provided care to the patient. The court was appalled, applying the “Undertaker’s Doctrine,” and entering a judgment “for the nurse”:THE FLORIDA COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMED THE JUDGMENT ENTERED BY THE LOWER COURT. The court held, inter alia, that Nurse Bolin’s voluntary actions in urging that the patient be seen by the neurosurgeon who implanted the neuromodulation system in him did not impose an affirmative duty on the nurse to do any more than she had already done. The court held, inter alia, that Nurse Bolin had gone far beyond the call of duty in imploring the patient to make certain that he was seen by the doctor who implanted the device. Through no fault of Nurse Bolin, despite her extraordinary effort to have the patient seen by the doctor in question, the patient was never seen by him. Ironically, Nurse Bolin found herself among the defendants when the patient finally brought suit. Justice was done when Nurse Bolin’s motion for a directed verdict was granted by the trial court and the trial court’s order was affirmed on appeal. IN VIEW OF WHAT THE COURT PERCEIVED TO BE A GROSS INJUSTICE REGARDING THE INCLUSION OF NURSE BOLIN IN THE SUIT, THE COURT SAW FIT TO DISCUSS THE ‘UNDERTAKER’S DOCTRINE.’(Tammelleo, 2011)

 Questions for Consideration

 

  1. At what point (s) in time did Wendy cross into the role of a nurse—provide examples of action to support your opinion. (this is a trick question)
  2. You’ve taken a job in the healthcare setting that does not use nor require your nursing skills, yet you still keep an active RN license. Are you still required to abide by your oath and the Code of Ethics for Nurses when you see or are aware of unethical situations that place the lives or well- being of others at risk? Explain your rationale.
  3. The Whites, in their complaint against Wendy Bolin, state that she should have “warned Mr. White that an infection at the incision site could result in paralysis.” Do you agree? Why or why not.
  4. If Wendy was acting in the capacity of a Registered Nurse, should she have been held liable for, or had the duty to make sure Dr. Moyer provided care to Mr. White? Is there a line at which the responsibility falls to a physician?
  5. Who, in your opinion, is ultimately responsible for the injury caused to Mr. White? Why?

 Discussion

     We’ve all done it and if you haven’t— you’re either lying or haven’t been in the profession long enough: Keeping the “Nurse” on the “DL” (the down low) when out in public. Whether it be the gym, the county fair, a restaurant, or the mall– we like to stay off the clock when we are—off the clock.  I’ll cop to it. When I used to frequent the gym I stayed away from any equipment operated by someone who had skin pallor that screamed “major coronary blockages within.” Cardiac & ER nurses—you know what I’m talking about. Would I do CPR if I had to? Of course I’d do it– But that doesn’t mean I’m about to tempt fate by putting myself in the path of a potential tornado. We live and practice in a litigious society and even the best intentions/efforts to help your fellow man may not go over so well should the outcome be less than satisfactory to the patient and/or family. Hell, doctors even have the ability to destroy your livelihood and future if you do something they do not like or agree with.

      Mr. White’s case is a perfect example of what happens when a nurse—who wasn’t “on duty” as a nurse, sought to help him by tirelessly advocating for his best interests throughout the course of care. I wonder if it was Wendy herself who made the mistake of sharing her nursing background with Mr. White. Here’s a hint—if you’re not working in the capacity of a nurse, don’t share that you have that background for this exact reason! The two roles can easily become blurred in the eyes and mind of the patient. Although the lawsuit named the two companies involved, and each physician that came into contact with Mr. White, the court documentation clearly stated that their focus was on “the nurse.”

Once the coveted RN is placed after your name it would be wise to take a breath, relax with a glass of iced tea or a cup of coffee, and explore your state’s legislative website to learn more about the Good Samaritan Laws in your state. How are you protected legally should you help render aid with a motor vehicle accident or when breaking a few ribs performing CPR in front of the McDonalds at the local mall? It’s important to know these things. There was recently a bad car accident here in Phoenix that involved children. The bystanders were afraid the car was catching fire and worked hard to pull the young children out of their car seats and out of the car before first responders got there to assist. First responders later advised the community via the evening news that because the children were taken out of the car seats they hemorrhaged and coded (trauma code)—the close compartment of the car seat and the belt holding them in place was actually keeping them somewhat stable. There is no fault, lay people don’t know these things—and genuinely want to help. But let’s play the devil’s advocate here—what if those bystanders were nurses and the family found that out? There is a really good chance that they would have been subjected to a lawsuit. The reason why? Well, one could argue that a nurse is trained to assess for potential internal injuries resulting from trauma and should understand the basic principles behind maintaining homeostasis. He/she could be accused of causing harm or death in the process of rendering aid.

     I’m not saying don’t stop and help—I do all the timebut be smart about it and practice defensively–know what,  if anything, your state has on the books to protect healthcare providers while they are engaged in those crucial moments of caregiving…

 

Resources

White v. Advanced Neuromodulation Systems. (2011, January 24). Retrieved May 31, 2013, from LEAGLE: Debate, Cases, Regulations, Statutes, and More: http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?page=1&xmldoc=In%20FLCO%2020110114132.xml&docbase=CSLWAR3-2007-CURR&SizeDisp=7

Tammelleo, D. (2011, January 1). The ‘undertaking doctrine’ may not be what you think! Retrieved May 31, 2013, from The Free Library: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The ‘undertaking’ doctrine may not be what you think!-a0249390289

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