What the Amanda Trujillo Case Tells Me About Nurses Behaving Badly

Amanda Trujillo can take cold comfort that her situation is not unique. In the two years and odd months I have posted on this blog, I have written about six other cases where nurses (or nursing students) have been bullied and hounded:

Some of these incidents have been resolved. The near-farcical case of the over-exposed placenta, for example, which featured an hysterical nursing program administrator and a blistering court judgment, had a satisfactory outcome resulting in the vindication of the victim. Others, like the Nevada nurses, are in progress. And some, tragically, will never be concluded.

The common thread from all of these cases is they prominently feature nurses behaving badly. Not just any nurse, not your run-of-the-mill front line nurse, but nurses in management or leadership positions.

It’s worth repeating that it is not “Banner Health” or the “hospital” behaving badly. Saying “Banner Health fired Amanda Trujillo” is a  convenient way of avoiding the unpleasant truth that it is nurses making these horrifically bad decisions, at least in the initial stages. These are nurses acting in ways that are contrary to what most nurses understand as ethical and reasonable professional behaviour.

Amanda Trujillo’s nursing director, when confronted by an angry physician, thought it ethical and reasonable and professional to behave in such a way that any objective reading would perceive as bullying and intimidating. She decided to magnify this bullying behaviour by first firing Trujillo and then reporting her to the state board of nursing. The Arizona State Board of Nursing compounded the bullying . They deemed “retaliatory” counter-complaints Trujillo made against her managers without examining the context of the original complaint, and then by deciding to label her crazy by ordering a psychiatric evaluation.  And the Arizona Nurses Association, which apparently has links to senior management at Banner Health, finds itself unable to defend a victimized nurse, even though it supposedly “supports nurses professional responsibility to advocate on their own behalf just as they advocate on behalf of their patients.” More nurses behaving, not as nurses, but as school-yard louts.

In the world where I practice, and where I think the vast majority of nurses practice, this behaviour is despicable. It is outside the norms of professional ethics. I cannot conceive of any situation or circumstance where bullying and harassment can be justified in a nursing context.

Yet there it is. We can talk endlessly about power dynamics or hostile work environments or violence in the nursing profession, but in the end, it is wrong. We all know it.

I am fortunate in having an excellent nurse manager, and I personally and through social media know many, many nurse managers — leaders, really — who to my mind exemplify the nursing ideal: compassion, empathy, insight, critical thinking, ethical practice. Yet it is evident, that for some nurses, ascension into what we commonly think as leadership positions is seen as a licence to act like gaping assholes, and bully any underling nurse that comes in their path. Their behaviour is not nursing. It is the antithesis of everything that nursing stands for. It’s toxic, and it eats away at nursing like a carcinoma. We need to call out these nurses on their bad behaviour. It looks like in this case we are.

But it is to these nurses I want to address the thrust of this post. Leadership or management means that you must act with compassion, empathy, insight, critical thinking, ethically. Period. It does not excuse you from any standards of nursing practice. If you find you are in an irredeemable conflict between your perceived duties as manager or leader, and being a compassionate, empathetic, insightful, critically thinking, ethical nurse I strongly urge you right now to resign your registration. You are not a nurse. Stop pretending to be one.

Because we need real nurses.

Because, frankly, you are a drag on the profession.

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  1. #1 by The Nerdy Nurse on Monday 30 January 2012 - 2231

    Always eloquent in your approach to a situation.

    Thank you for helping us to continue to amplify Amanda’s struggle.

    You are right, the managers and leader in nursing need to remember that the patient needs compassion, and sometimes the patient is the nurse.

  2. #2 by Pat Iyer on Tuesday 31 January 2012 - 2240

    Great points, particularly about the responsibility of the Arizona Nurses Association to be helping Amanda- Other nurses watching this situation are learning the unfortunate lesson that speaking up gets you fired. We cannot allow nurses to be silenced.

    • #3 by torontoemerg on Thursday 02 February 2012 - 0937

      For me, anyway, AzNA’s failure to engage with this issue is a disgrace to the profession.

      • #4 by Greg Mercer on Friday 03 February 2012 - 0008

        Not particularly religious, nevertheless I agree with Dr King and Dante, who said that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in a time of moral crisis, remain neutral.
        Take a stand, and own it!

  3. #5 by gregmercer601 on Wednesday 01 February 2012 - 2047

    Well written, good points – I’m less concerned about details and blame, as I am about doing what I can to help – both Amanda and others like her – there will be others, as you show, if we accept the status quo. If Nurses show we aren’t isolated & vulnerable, that we’re not easy targets and scapegoats, then fewer such incidents will occur. We need to make an example of Amanda – a positive example in which Nurses rally and make their voices heard. We have just today out together the beginning of a new Face Book page,
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nurse-Power-For-Amanda-Trujillo/337012639654244, that provides a space for regarding a proposed protest.
    There is a link to grchealthcareblog.com, where there are detailed instructions, and background on Social Media with past success stories in which people gathered to exert real world power.
    Nurse Power!

    • #6 by torontoemerg on Thursday 02 February 2012 - 0935

      Thanks for the comment — clearly, we need need to use this case to articulate important nursing values. Thanks for the link.

  4. #7 by cna training class on Thursday 02 February 2012 - 1536

    Every profession with both the good and bad but this is a great article on the bad side of nursing

  5. #8 by Dr Vriginia Seno on Monday 06 February 2012 - 0859


    You can add this story to your blog…this attorney prides himself in representing victims of bullying. Funny, he get’s lots of nursing students as well as faculty calling on him. I hope that Amanda can find an attorney like this to blast through the despicable behavior shown here and everywhere (it seems)!

  6. #9 by gregmercer601 on Friday 09 March 2012 - 0822

    We have a new Change.org petition up to boycott Arizona until we see some BON changes – please check it out & help us spread the word, next Hearing is 3/19 and AZBON reauthorization is still in the Legislature – we’re running out of time on this sweet spot for change.

    See http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-state-of-arizona-address-corrupting-factors-in-the-arizona-board-of-nursing



    Thanks, and I hope all is well with you!

  7. #10 by gregmercer601 on Friday 09 March 2012 - 1652

    Hello – Some of Amanda Trujillo’s associates have just posted a Change.org petition up to boycott Arizona until we see some BON changes – please check it out & help us spread the word, next Hearing is 3/19 and AZBON reauthorization is still in the Legislature – we’re running out of time on this unusually opportune time for positive change.

    See http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-state-of-arizona-address-corrupting-factors-in-the-arizona-board-of-nursing



    Thanks for your good work,

    Greg Mercer, MSN

  8. #11 by MTD on Friday 15 March 2013 - 0841

    Nice finish! The final paragraph spoke volumes…I only hope it didn’t fall on deaf ears.

    • #12 by gregmercer601 on Thursday 28 March 2013 - 1038

      This controversy affected many lives, and set me on the road to much deeper and more public political involvement. The depth and ubiquity of power abused, corruption, graft, waste and inefficiency in health care and beyond remain staggering, but all the efforts for positive change inspire to keep pluggin. When we surrender, then we lose, then all is lost. Only then.

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