Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)3 Mar 98

Quick Summary: A registered nurse had her license revoked four times over for misconduct in the neonatal intensive care unit.  The charges were:

With reckless disregard for the health and safety of her patient, she removed an infant from an incubator, and holding the baby only by one of her hands around its neck, she carried the baby around the unit making jests while allowing the naked infant’s body to dangle unsupported.

While working in the hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), she carried babies by holding them under their armpits.

During a period of more than one year, the nurse endangered the lives of her NICU patients by removing babies from the incubators and carrying the naked babies to sinks to wash them and to weigh scales located in other rooms of the unit, thus compromising the maintenance of stable body temperatures and unnecessarily exposing the infants to the risk of infection.

During the same period, the nurse stimulated her NICU patients’ hearts by rapidly flipping the levers on their incubators to jostle them as they lay in the incubators, thereby increasing the risk of intra-ventricular hemorrhaging.  SUPREME COURT OF MISSISSIPPI, 1997.

 

   Much like a criminal receiving consecutive life sentences for a string of crimes, a registered nurse had her license revoked four times over, once for each of four charges brought against her before the state board of nursing.

   The Supreme Court of Mississippi overruled the state chancery court which had overruled the board of nursing. In effect this allowed the board’s decision to revoke the nurse’s license to stand as a final judgment.

   The court did not discount the credibility of three nurses who witnessed the incident involving the nurse carrying an infant around by its neck, simply because two of them waited nearly thirty days to come forward to discuss the incident with the charge nurse. Nor was their credibility to be discounted because each of the three related a slightly different account of just what had happened.

   However, the court stated it was very concerned the two nurses had waited so long to come forward. Apparently they had let personal feelings toward the nurse and concern for their working relationship get in the way of their professional duty to report promptly another nurse’s conduct that threatened the safety of a patient.

   The court was deeply unimpressed with the argument, based on the expert testimony of a pediatrician the nurse called as a witness in her defense, that none of the babies could be proven to have been harmed by her conduct.

   The court ruled the board of nursing was not incapable of making a fair decision because of alleged prejudice against the nurse because she had filed a Federal civil rights lawsuit against the board and each of its members individually. The legal system presumes that administrative hearing bodies are fair and honest, the court noted. The court said it would not allow the board’s deliberations and decision to be drowned out with unsupported allegations of bias. Mississippi Board of Nursing vs. Hanson, 703 So. 2d 239 (Miss., 1997).