Diaries Magazine

Just Lie Back and Think of Florence — Or Not

By Torontoemerg

Nurse K, possibly the doyenne of nurse bloggers, gives her two cents on Amanda Trujillo. Her advice is to surrender:

Yes, I’m going to say it: Forget advocating.  Be humble.  Be honest and consistent.  Go through the process.  Listen to your attorney.  Your most important asset as a terminated person is an unrestricted nursing license and lack of bitterness.  Get advice from your attorney and mentors about what to say in job interviews about your termination.  Rehearse your answers to the question of “why were you terminated from Banner Health.”  Don’t decide that you’re never working for a hospital again and you don’t care what anyone thinks. You’re a single mom on welfare with a termination on your record; you don’t have the luxury of being picky. 

This termination was not about who can order a case management consult.  This was the typical crap that I saw every day.  Someone important (in this case, the surgeon who was to perform the transplant) [it was a gastroenterologist, not the transplant surgeon,  incidentally --- ed.] looks bad or is pissed at someone for something and demands a termination and the thing spirals out of control.

This type of stuff is a hospital culture problem and certainly needs to stop, but a terminated employee is not going to stop anything like that, so don’t expose yourself to the world as a fired person with a chip on their shoulder. 

Well, fair enough. You pick your battles. What she’s suggesting is that for Amanda Trujillo, maybe this wasn’t the hill to die on. This is true in some, maybe even most, cases. It is excellent advice, in fact. I have a friend whose employer reported her to the College of Nurses of Ontario  — the semi-equivalent of state boards of nursing — for a serious med error that contributed to the death of a patient. She went through the process, humble and contrite, and received a formal written caution and oral reprimand.  Her employer supported her through her rehabilitation, worked out a mentorship and learning plan with her; she took a refresher course on medication. She is still practicing. This is how the system is supposed to work, right?

To paraphrase Queen Victoria, just lie back and think of Florence. I don’t think I am caricaturing Nurse K’s position here, not much anyway. Most times, silence is golden and discretion is the better part of valour, and all those other platitudes your mother taught you.

But then, this isn’t a conventional case. Let’s review for minute: Trujillo offers a patient information regarding an organ transplant and arranges, as per usual practice and at the patient’s request, a hospice care consult; this angers a physician; she is arbitrarily fired for exceeding her scope of practice in ordering this consult, which was inside her scope the day before; no one was harmed or put at risk, except, perhaps, the physician’s ego; Banner Health, Trujillo’s employer, reports her to the Arizona State Board of Nursing for practicing outside scope of practice  which — I can’t say this enough — was practicing inside scope of practice the day before; the case languishes for months and months in some sort of bizarre Board of Nursing limbo; then the moment Trujillo’s case caught the attention of some ratty-end nurse bloggers, the Board of Nursing orders a psych consult, evidently because publicly defending yourself makes you crazy; the Board of Nursing subsequently (and in a highly dubious fashion) informs Trujillo’s university she’s under investigation, then denies it despite clear proof to the contrary; and now the latest buffoonery, a new accusation from the Board of Nursing that Trujillo has “misrepresented” herself as to her academic credentials.

If this is a typical case, we are all in trouble.

And there’s this observation: isn’t shutting up and going away what employers and managers and nursing boards expect front line nurses to do? Don’t make trouble, nurses. It’s unbecoming. It will just make things worse — yes, for you. Don’t advocate for yourself — because — we will call you crazy. You will be screwed over — and you will like it!

The thing is, even before all the fuss, it’s hard to imagine how this could have gotten worse for Amanda Trujillo. If the fix is in, if you’re being railroaded by your employer, and the state Board of Nursing (as Nurse K says) is shady and duplicitous, being demure and helpful and willing to take your lumps is not going to help you. And why in the name of everything that is sacred and good should you help someone who is seeking to harm you? And as for meekness and docility now? Seems rather besides the point now.

In any case, nurse as silent martyr is not a great image. Nurse as battered wife is worse. Advocacy for yourself, and for your profession is sometimes not one of many bad choices, it is the only choice. Because of circumstances yes, but also because it is right. And as Nurse Ratched points out, often it only takes one pebble to start an avalanche.

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