Nursing staff are the front-line defenders of patient safety in hospitals, nursing homes and anywhere patients are taken care of. Therefore to prevent patients experiencing harm by medical malpractice, it's important to protect nurses from being let go if they speak up when they discover unsafe care. The Maryland Court of Appeals has just acknowledged this important principle of public policy in a decision reinstating a nurse's wrongful termination case.
The nurses lawsuit was dismissed by a trial judge in Montgomery County, Maryland, because the nurse had only complained to her supervisor about the risky procedures she observed at the hospice. The trial judge said that to be protected by Maryland's health care whistleblower statute, the nurse should have also reported to an external agency like the State Board of Nursing.
The Court of Appeals, Maryland's highest court, said the trial judge was wrong. As long as the health care employee has described in writing the unsafe practices to a supervisor or administrator at her workplace, that employee is protected from being let go.
The case alleged she was dismissed for generating complaints about considerable errors in handling narcotic drugs, such as giving narcotic "starter packets" to numerous patients, including children, without a written doctor's order.
In additional nurse whistleblower news: A suit on behalf of two nurses in Winkler County, Texas, who were let go for reporting a risky medical professional to the state medical board, is proceeding. The nurses were vindicated in criminal court earlier this year. Now their case against the hospital that fired them and the authorities who wrongly prosecuted them criminally is set for trial in November 2010.