Patient Safety - Reality Check

Silencing Nurse Advocates

Physician files a frivolous suit to silence nurses
Anne Mitchell, RN and Vicki Galle, RN

Two nurses in Winkler County, Texas had felony charges brought against them for reporting information to the state medical board. They said that a physician's practice was below the acceptable standard of care. The hospital terminated them. The physician filed a harassment complaint against them with the sheriff's department and felony charges against them for misuse of information. The charges could result in ten years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

The nurses did not disclose the names of the patients whose records were offered as evidence in their complaint. They disclosed only the identification numbers of the patients. The Texas Medical Board stated in a letter to Winkler County attorneys that disclosing of patient identification numbers is allowed under state and federal law. So it is not misuse of information. The suit is frivolous. The suit is harassment. But that does not stop the suit. The nurses must defend themselves against the criminal charge while they are without jobs to provide them the income to pay for it.

The doctor probably believes he is the victim. The entire community of doctors keep telling us they are as they take away our rights and silence our advocates.

This isn't a one-off. The problem is frequent enough for Nevada to have passed bill AB10 prohibiting retaliation or discrimination against nurses who report information relating to the safety of patients. In Wisconsin the Health Care Worker Protection Act gives any health care worker protection from retaliation by their employer or management for reporting illegal/unethical practices of their employer.