Nursing & Healthcare News
Medication Error or Reckless Homicide?
Criminal charges filed against Tennessee nurse provoke controversy
By now, most nurses have heard about RaDonda Vaught, the Tennessee RN facing criminal charges for the medication error that killed a patient in 2017. Let’s take a closer look at a case that’s captured national attention.
A Nurse’s Worst Day
RaDonda Vaught, RN, was formerly a “help-all” resource nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. On the afternoon of Dec. 26, 2017, she was precepting a new hire when she got a call to administer an injection to a radiology patient whose assigned nurse was away covering a colleague’s lunch break.
The patient, 75-year-old Charlene Murphey, was scheduled to undergo a PET scan. Because the confining scanner booth made Murphey severely claustrophobic, her doctor had prescribed a sedative, Versed, to help her relax.
As Vaught later explained to investigators, she was still engrossed in conversation with her orientee while she attempted to retrieve Murphey’s prescribed anti-anxiety medication from the automated dispensing cabinet. The cabinet indicated that Versed wasn’t in Murphey’s profile; the drug was actually listed under its generic name, midazolam hydrochloride.
Rather than call the pharmacy for clarification, Vaught overrode the cabinet, manually entered “VE” and selected the first result. After mixing the medication and administering it to the patient, Vaught departed with her orientee. She’d somehow overlooked or ignored multiple warnings from the cabinet and on the medication vial that the drug she’d selected was really vecuronium bromide, a powerful nerve blocker and paralyzing agent used in general anesthesia.