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Does RN have a case for unjustifed suspension?

Dear Nancy,

An LPN I worked with made a medication error. As the RN charge, I helped her by calling the MD and notifying her supervisor after checking that the patient was okay. The supervisor did not make me fill out the incident report and told me to sign for waste of the meds on the narcotic sheet since the LPN took meds from one patient and gave it to another. I was suspended for failure to document.

The supervisor sent me from my floor to do admissions. The MD was allowed to write a late entry three days after the incident. They also had an inservice to all nursing staff with printed details about the incident that are false and make nurses look bad. As of now I have been under suspension pending investigation. Do I have a case for unjustifed suspension and defamation?

Phyllis

Dear Phyllis,

It sounds as though the situation you describe in your question was not properly handled. That’s unfortunate since doing so might have resulted in less stress on your part.

Certainly the printed details that were handed out during the inservice that were false is something that is highly questionable. It is difficult to determine if the information resulted in defaming you (in a written document, this is called libel) with the lack of details you provided. You should have this evaluated by a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state who practices personal injury law and represents plaintiffs.

The clinical side of the situation is problematic for you, to be sure. First, you said you were suspended for failing to document. Was this because you did not document the situation in the patient’s record?  Also, although you were told not to fill out an incident report by your supervisor, if it is a policy to do so in your facility, you should have done so, regardless of what your supervisor directed you to do. And, keep in mind that a filed incident report does not take the place of also documenting in the patient record.

Your signing off on the waste of the narcotic in this case is something you should not have done if you did not witness the wasting of the narcotic. The proper handling of narcotics is very, very important. Not doing so can lead to potential allegations by the board of nursing that you did not comply with required procedures for wasting and possibly that you diverted the narcotics for your own use.

Because there are lots of details you did not share in your question in order for me to determine if you have any causes of action against your employer and supervisor, you should consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who practices in employment law and personal injury law. This you could do once the internal investigation is completed and you get a decision by the employer. Remember, too, that you can also utilize your employer’s grievance policy to fight any unfavorable ruling as a result of the internal investigation. For this reason, you may want to obtain a consult now in order to prepare to quickly grieve any adverse decision by the employer.

Best wishes,

Nancy

By | 2015-06-26T13:59:24-04:00 June 24th, 2015|Categories: Blogs, Nursing careers and jobs|1 Comment

About the Author:

Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN
Our legal information columnist Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities. Brent has conducted many seminars on legal issues in nursing and healthcare delivery across the country and has published extensively in the area of law and nursing practice. She brings more than 30 years of experience to her role of legal information columnist. Her posts are designed for educational purposes only and are not to be taken as specific legal or other advice. Individuals who need advice on a specific incident or work situation should contact a nurse attorney or attorney in their state. Visit The American Association of Nurse Attorneys website to search its attorney referral database by state.

One Comment

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    noname December 6, 2019 at 5:20 am - Reply

    pay pending an investigation, the best practice is to ensure that the investigation is conducted as quickly as possible and to set definite timelines for how long the suspension will last. If the investigation takes longer than expected, the suspension can be extended—but, again, with a definite end date. However, even under this scenario, if the amount of time the employee is on suspension bears little or no relationship to the actual amount of time spent on the investigation, the labor commissioner may well consider it to have been a termination and thus award Section 203 penalties.

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