Last week, a nurse in Texas was acquitted after a being on trial for reporting a doctor for practicing bad medicine.  Here are some of the details from the case, which came to be known as the “Winkler County nurses” trial:

  • Two nurses, Anne Mitchell and Vicki Gale, reported a doctor because they were concerned about his practice being below the standard of care and affecting patient safety. Another concern was his use of “nontherapeutic treatments and prescriptions.”
  • The case against Gale was dismissed; however the felony indictment will remain on her record.
  • Mitchell faced a third-degree felony charge and up to 10 years in prison for trying to protect her patients.
  • Both Mitchell and Gale were fired from their jobs.
  • The American Nurses Association (ANA) and Texas Nurses Association (TNA) both demonstrated their supported openly. The TNA created the TNA Legal Defense Fund to “to support the legal rights of these nurses in Winkler County – and the rights of every practicing nurse in Texas to advocate for patients.”
  • On February 11, 2010, Anne Mitchell was found not guilty.

You can read more about the details of the case as chronicled by the TNA here

“I was just doing my job,” relayed a jubilant Anne Mitchell, in a phone conversation with TNA immediately following the not guilty verdict, “but no one should have to go through this,” she said.  “I would say to every nurse, if you witness bad care, you have a duty to your patient to report it, no matter the personal ramifications.  This whole ordeal was really about patient care.”

My heart goes out to both Mitchell and Gale for all that they have endured over the last months. While the verdict is a success for nurses and patient safety, what damage has been done simply by the fact that such a case was brought to trial? What are your thoughts? Have you ever been in a similar position in which you felt patient safety was being compromised by a colleague? How did you handle it?