Should Nurses Publicly Criticize Their Hospitals?

Fallout From the Ebola Crisis in Dallas

Carolyn Buppert, MSN, JD

Disclosures

October 22, 2014

In This Article
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Question

In the wake of the first Ebola patient in the United States, a nurse publicly criticized her hospital's lack of preparedness for, and handling of, patients with Ebola. Can nurses do that? Should they? Must they?

Response from Carolyn Buppert, MSN, JD
Healthcare attorney

By now, most people have heard about Texas Health Presbyterian, the hospital in Dallas which, when presented with a patient with Ebola, missed the diagnosis. One day after a nurses' union accused that hospital of mishandling the nursing care of the patient, a nurse who worked at the hospital, Briana Aguirre, appeared on the Today show via Skype, airing multiple criticisms of the administration at that hospital. Among her points: personal protective equipment (PPE) issued to the nurses left their necks exposed; training was meager and voluntary; the patient was not isolated immediately; and bags of hazardous garbage built up in the hallways where staff walked about without shoe covers.

She said that when she voiced her concerns to a hospital vice president about the lack of protective suits, he said he would look into it and call her, but he didn't get back to her. "I can no longer defend my hospital," she said. "They should have called in more help... They violated basic principles of nursing care... of medical care." She stated that if she came down with Ebola, she would avoid her own hospital. Aguirre said she realizes that she is at risk of losing her job over this, but she thinks that she is doing the right thing to voice her concerns. She appeared with an attorney, who called her "a whistleblower" and said that he is trying to protect her job. He commented that she was taking a big risk, given that she has two children and is the breadwinner for her family.

The hospital defended itself by saying that it followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols that were current at the time, and that the trash was well contained.

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