Congratulations to Anne Mitchell, RN and her lawyer John H. Cook IV on winning an acquittal for Anne, charged with misuse of patient information when she reported a doctor for medical misconduct. Mitchell faced charges of using the patient information with intent of harming the career of the doctor. If convicted, Mitchell could have faced imprisonment of up to 10 years, and a fine as large as $10,000. The jury ruled unanimously in Mitchell’s favor, on the first ballot. The Texas Nurses Association, and the American Nurses Association have supported Ms. Mitchell’s innocence.
Next, Mitchell and her lawyer are prosecuting Winkler County Memorial Hospital, which fired her and Vicki Galle, and Doctor Arafiles in federal court for violation of Mitchell’s First Amendment Rights.
You go, Anne and Vicki! Thanks for standing at the plate and taking a hit for the team. Your courage as patient advocates is inspiring.
For a couple of years, I worked in Quality Improvement (QI) for a nursing department. My job was to review error and near miss error reports, tease out the cause(s) and develop strategies preventing error recurrence. I learned a lot of things that helped make patients safer in a hospital. I loved that job.
So, I am concerned about a situation I became aware of last week in a post by Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN interim editor in chief, on the American Journal of Nursing’s blog Off the Chart. In the last paragraph of her post, she discusses the case of two Registered Nurses in Texas, who are facing prosecution as whistle blowers for reporting a physician of behavior they assert is unsafe for patients. Vicki Galle was in charge of the Hospital’s Quality Improvement and Anne Mitchell was the hospital’s Compliance Officer. For readers not involved in health care, this means it was their jobs to investigate hospital safety issues and report noncompliance ( people who aren’t following the rules). Both nurses were terminated from their jobs in June, 2009. Although Texas is a state with laws protecting whistle blowers, the laws do not prevent the physician they reported from filing a harassment suit against the pair. Sounds like another “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” scenario that health care providers can