Telemedicine has become a regular component of health care. During the current pandemic, it has helped healthcare providers, including nurses and nurse practitioners, maintain contact with patients.
Unfortunately in the following case, a telemedicine program’s policies and procedures for communicating with physicians was not followed, which resulted in an RN’s dismissal and a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Circumstances of the Case
In this case, the nursing home in question began using a telemedicine program in 2018. The program was used to consult with the telemedicine physicians virtually after “normal business” hours rather than contacting the patients’ personal physicians.
The policy developed by the nursing home required nurses to use the telemedicine program between the hours of 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. during the week and at all times during the weekend.
The program’s physicians were not to be contacted for certain conditions, such as routine labs or chronic pain, and were to be contacted through the program if a patient was suffering from GI distress, a fever, and other symptoms.
The second shift RN supervisor took the lead on making rounds and assisting nursing staff on that shift. When the RN needed help, or when there was a change in a patient’s condition, she would contact her supervisor, the unit manager on the day shift.
In early January 2019, the RN was caring for a chronically ill patient whose personal doctor ordered blood cultures from the patient’s central line. The lab results indicated an infection in the central line. Even though the results were received during the time period nursing staff was instructed to use the telemedicine physicians, the RN contacted the patient’s personal physician by phone.
The physician ordered the patient be transferred to the hospital immediately. The RN did so and notified her supervisor after the transfer had taken place.
The next day, the RN was told by a colleague responsible for training nursing staff on the telemedicine program that she did not follow the established procedure for contacting the telemedicine physicians and that her unit manager needed to be notified before contacting a personal physician.
Two days later, the RN was concerned that a patient had not been taking her medication, was not eating or drinking, and had loose stools and green vomitus.
The RN called the patient’s personal physician who ordered the patient be sent to the hospital. The RN arranged for the transfer and informed her unit manager after doing so.
The director of nursing met with the RN several days later and told her she would be suspended pending an investigation as a result of her “violating protocol,” referencing sending patients out of the facility.
Later, she was notified by phone that she was terminated.
Wrongful Termination Suit is Filed
In her lawsuit, the RN alleged that her termination was wrongful and against public policy as a result of her conduct when caring for the two patients described above.
Specifically, she alleged that firing her violated Ohio public policy that RNs are “not be interfered with, or prevented from, engaging in the practice of nursing and providing …read more
Read full article here: nurse.com