Posts Tagged Trujillo
Just a few words about Amanda Trujillo. Jennifer Olin at RNCentral.com has detailed at the latest twists and turns of her case. I won’t repeat everything, but I want to comment instead on the Arizona State Board of Nursing’s latest action. The BoN has added a further charge that Trujillo has misrepresented herself as “an end of life” specialist because she counselled and educated patients about end of life care, using the materials provided by her employer, Banner Health.
This is pretty outrageous, and I think, an abuse of process. Let me elaborate from my point of view as an Emergency department nurse. In the course of any shift I may give advice and education on:
- wound care and dressing changes — but I am not a nurse specialist on wound care and dressings
- casts and splints — but I am not a specialist in orthopaedic nursing
- diet for cases of gastroenteritis — but I am not a dietitian
- prescriptions — but I am not a pharmacist
- preparation for diagnostic imaging — but I am not a radiography tech
- advise first time pregnancies on the benefits of breastfeeding — but I am not a lactation nurse
- head injury routine — but I am not a nurse specialist in neurology
- treatment of fever in children — but I am not a paeds nurse
Now according to the Arizona State Board of Nursing, I am representing myself as a specialist in all of these areas, and probably a few score more that I haven’t listed. By the considered, professional judgement of the nursing leadership inhabiting the halls of the Arizona State Board of Nursing, I should just shut up, because I am clearly qualified to do squat.
The Arizona State Board of Nursing evidently believes nurses educating patients on anything is beyond their scope of practice. And by extension, nurses educating patients puts patients in danger.
Absolutely. And this is why this latest charge is a trumped-up nonsense. Nursing as a profession would cease to exist in Arizona if nurses had to meet the stringent requirements the BoN now apparently requires, if nurses need some sort of official certification as “specialist” before providing education of any sort. The “position” now put forward by the Board of Nursing is contradicts widely accepted nursing practice. Providing health teaching is the standard of care around the world. This is what nurses do. In my jurisdiction, you can be disciplined for not providing appropriate education.
Jennifer Olin puts it this way:
This just makes no sense. Trujillo may be interested in end-of-life issues, she admitted herself that she had provided such information to patients previous to the one involved in this incident with no objections from physicians or hospital management. In fact, that evening, she even cleared her plan of care with the clinical manager.
This is not claiming to be a certified specialist. We are nurses. We are expected to know quite a bit and, more importantly, how to find information for our clients and ourselves. The information Trujillo provided was pulled straight from the information banks of the hospital’s own computer system.
Exactly. This is what we know as nurses. We educate. To claim otherwise is to run against the experience and practice of millions of fully qualified and competent nurses. The Arizona Board of Nursing knows this too. They are nurses, after all. You can only conclude the Board is grasping at straws at this point, hoping to harass or intimidate Trujillo into submission.
The next step is an evidentiary hearing, for which the Board of Nursing has not yet set a date. As of next month it will be a year since this business started. The wheels of justice grind slowly, it’s said. Let’s just hope they grind as finely as advertised.
One more note: I spoke at length with Amanda yesterday, and she is very well and in good spirits. Her lawyer has asked her not to comment publicly further on her case, so I can’t relay what she told me. However, I will say the story grows more convoluted by the day and there is far more going on than can be publicly mentioned. So stay tuned!
Posted by torontoemerg in Blogging Navel Gazing, Good Nursing Practice is Practising with the Heart and Mind, Nurses Who Do Us Proud on Thursday 01 March 2012
[This post appeared last week, in slightly modified form, at KevinMd.com. Nice to see it’s generating a huge response and vigorous debate there. TE.]
For the past month, the case of Amanda Trujillo has resonated deeply among nurses, triggering an avalanche of postings on Facebook, Twitter and in the nursing blogosphere. Trujillo is the Arizona nurse who was fired in April 2011 after providing education and making a hospice care consult request for an end-stage liver disease patient. This patient was slotted for pre-transplant evaluation and had poor understanding of the disease process and treatment options. Trujillo filled in the gaps for this patient. Trujillo then requested, at the patient’s own wish, a hospice team consult, documented her actions appropriately, and left a note (it was night shift) for the primary physician.
These actions — the education and the hospice team consult — drew the wrath of both the primary physician, who demanded her dismissal and her license, and also her nursing director, who told Trujillo she had “messed up all the doctors’ hard work and planning for the surgery.” The patient-requested hospice care consult was cancelled. Trujillo’s employer subsequently fired her, and reported her to the Arizona State Board of Nursing for exceeding nursing scope of practice, though in fact, nurses previously had ordered a hospice care consult without consequence. In short, many nurses believe Trujillo was fired for educating and advocating for her patient.
These are the bare bones of the story. (Further details can be found here and here.) The debate among nurses — sometimes heated — has common themes around the limits of nursing practice, the meaning of nursing advocacy, and how nurses in trouble are left high and dry by the professional organizations that purport to represent them. Well and good. But why should physicians care?
Before I answer that question, let me tell you about my own practice as a nurse in a busy Toronto Emergency department. I work shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best physicians I have ever known. Our goal is give excellent care and treatment to every patient we see. In order to do this job well and effectively, I need some tools — like the freedom to educate and advocate for my patients — and recognition that my judgement and accountabilities as a nurse are quite separate, if related, to those of physicians.
More importantly, I need the confidence to know I can engage in collaborative practice — and this in not just a one-way street, by the way — with my physician Emergency department colleagues. This is not a theoretical proposition, incidentally. If I tell an ED physician, for example, that a patient’s needs are largely social, and I have arranged for social work, and if she discounts or minimizes my concerns, and cancels the referral, then the patient suffers in the end. If I tell her that in my nursing judgement, the patient is crashing, and she ignores me, the patient dies. Being an effective patient advocate and practising collaboratively with physicians (and patients too, I might add) is good patient care. Yet doing my job well is precisely the same sort of advocacy which got Amanda Trujillo fired and reported to the Arizona State Board of Nursing.
Physicians should be concerned about Amanda Trujillo for this reason: ultimately her case is about providing good patient care. There are, of course, obvious serious issues about patient autonomy and the ability of hospitals and physicians to override patient decisions about their own care. Many physicians might sympathize with Trujillo’s arbitrary firing, or see in her case a reflection of their own professional concerns about the role of large health corporations in their day-to-day practice.
But for me, as a nurse, the issue boils down to whether the health care industry can tolerate highly educated, vocal, critically-thinking, engaged nurse-collaborators who, in the interest of their patients, will constructively work with — and challenge, if necessary — physicians and established treatment plans. Or does the industry just want robots with limited analytical skills who blindly and unthinkingly collect vital signs and carry out physician orders? More importantly, which model presents the best opportunity for excellent patient care?
For me and most nurses, the answer is obvious. What about physicians?
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.
When I was a young, inexperienced nurse, I quickly learned one lesson: the cliché that Emergency nurses are fabulously assertive, mouthy, in-your-face pitbulls is absolutely true. I don’t mean ED nurses are bitchy or backstabbing eat-their-own-young types, though this was true also, at least for some of them. I mean this: the Emergency department is a ballet of constrained chaos most days, with many competing claims for attention for the physician, the charge nurse, and your colleagues; if your patient is sick, you need to be assertive, walk right up to the physician and say, “Doctor, this patient is sick. You need to come look at him right now.” This, admittedly, takes a considerable amount of confidence and an ego the size of a battleship, if you are a new graduate, but the alternative, i.e. the patient dies, is not considered good nursing practice.
A little later in my nursing career one of those battle-axe nurses we all dislike decided she had an issue with me — which is to say, she was nearly shouting at me in front of every nurse in the department — over a triage record she thought was incomplete. When she finished, I asked her quietly asked her to step in our to step into our psych quiet room. I said her behaviour was unacceptable. I asked her to speak with me privately if she had a concern about my practice. I informed her if she ever tried taking me out again, I would speak to the manager. For that point on, until she left the department, this nurse avoided me like the plague. This was good. I deserved to work in a toxin-free workplace, right? More importantly, my patients deserved a nurse who wasn’t stressed out by harassment.
Somewhat after that, I began this blog. After writing some funny stories about strange patients and some sarcastic stories about irrational physicians I began to realize there was far more potential — and interest, if truth be told, because stupid patients stories on the Intertubes are as common as erectile dysfunction spam — in writing about how all the things I saw in the Emergency department related to larger issues surrounding the nursing profession and health care in general. To advocate, in other words. I think I have done this, in some small modest way.
This is how I see advocacy then, as a nurse: first for our patients (Jennifer Olin has some good elaboration here), then for ourselves personally, then for our profession. Needless to say, I’m a strong advocate for all of these. I believe most nurses are, if they think about it.
This brings me to my point. Whatever your perspective on the case of Amanda Trujillo, you might think the whole controversy would be a great opportunity for a thorough look at some hard issues related to advocacy.
There has been a lot of off-topic criticism directed at supporters of Amanda Trujillo — myself included — for pushing the issue too hard. Mostly, this amounts to personal attacks on her advocates, or that her problems are merely a human resources issue, or that “people” are “tired” about hearing about the case, or that Trujillo is crazy or not credible or both, or that we’re all emotional, or that we’re engaging in bizarre conspiracy theories, or that we’re all drinking the Kool-Aid (because supporting Trujillo is like a cult and/or we’re mindless zombies) or that we all should just sit down and shut up, or that “real” advocates for the profession have advanced degrees and repose in legacy institutions like the American Nurses Association, or that we should trust Banner Health’s judgement (because health care corporations never screw up, I suppose), or we should wait for the disciplinary process at the Arizona Board of Nursing (because the Board investigates all cases correctly and without bias) or (my favourite) that we shouldn’t be “blowing up the Internet” because that will make things “worse” for Trujillo (God knows how, at this point) or lastly, that we don’t have all the facts. (I stipulate to the last, but I don’t think it’s all that relevant — an arguable point, I guess.)
What I am not hearing from the contras is any sustained discussion about what patient advocacy means in the context of a complex, conflicted health care environment, or what places nurses have in informing patients about treatment options, or how to effectively (and collectively) support nurses working in hostile environments, or what to do when hospital policy conflicts with basic nursing ethics, or what advocacy means for nurses in the age of social media.
What I am not hearing from the critics, to be precise, is why Trujillo was wrong to give her patient information on all treatment options, why Banner Health was right to fire Trujillo for what (at worst) could be construed as a minor practice issue, why nurse managers should always bow to angry physicians, why nurses advocating for patients is bad, why Banner Health reporting Trujillo to the state Board of Nursing — a one line complaint! — was necessary to protect the public from harm, why a group of us — including some blogging heavyweights like Emergiblog and Nurse Ratched — have utterly misplaced our passion in supporting Trujillo, and why, finally it is inappropriate to talk about this all over the Internet.
Instead all we get is a lot of fast talk, bloviation and (deliberate?) misinformation. I once hiked in the Guatemalan rainforest near the Mayan ruins at Tikal and a troop of howler monkeys followed us for a long time, flinging poo all the while. I’m having the same sensation now.
Nurses do to each other online exactly as we do to each other in real life. Fling poo. It’s sad, really, that for all our sophistication about social media and tech, things don’t really ever change.
I get that emotions are running high, on both sides. Even so, is it even possible have a serious conversation about Trujillo and what it means to be a nurse and advocate? Even me, secret Pollyanna I am, is beginning to doubt it.
*** *** *** *** ***
Note of Clarification: The Arizona Nurses Association issued this statement on their Facebook page, which I am glad to reproduce: “When AzNA first became aware of this case, Teri Wicker, AzNA President identified a conflict of interest (between AzNA and her employer [Banner Health]) and voluntarily recused herself related to any AzNA discussions or decisions.”
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