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Sound Health is a recurring series that airs twice each month on WGLT's Sound Ideas program.Support for Sound Health comes from Carle Health, bringing care, coverage, support, healthcare research and education to central Illinois and beyond.

Sound Health: Negligent homicide conviction raises concerns for aspiring nurses

Nurse's Error Tennessee
Nicole Hester/AP
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Pool The Tennessean
RaDonda Vaught reacts as she is sentenced to three years of supervised probation, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Vaught was found guilty in March of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult after she accidentally administered the wrong medication.

A nursing educator at Illinois Wesleyan University says interest in nursing has rebounded since the start of the pandemic after years of lagging interest, but she's concerned the potential for criminal liability could have a chilling effect on the profession.

Vicki Folse is Illinois Wesleyan's director of the school of nursing and health sciences. She will soon become the new president at Ripon College in Wisconsin.

In this edition of Sound Health, Folse tells Eric Stock she hopes that increased interest in nursing doesn't suffer from what she calls an "alarming" case in Tennessee. A nurse there was convicted of negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult for mistakenly giving the wrong medication to a patient who later died.

“We teach our students about a just culture, meaning we want them to report medication errors,” Folse explained. “The nurse in fact did report her error and yet the outcome has been quite troubling.”

Folse said she hopes that conviction won't deter students from pursing nursing careers. “The conversation I’m having with students is how essential quality and safety and risk management is for their career,” Folse said. “I will tell you our students say ‘I thought my employer would protect me.’”

Victoria Folse.jpg
Ripon College
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IWU School of Nursing Director Victoria Folse will be the 14th President of Ripon College in Wisconsin.

Folse said convicted nurse ReDonda Vaught failed to protect the patient, but she said there were also technology failures that contributed to the patient being given a paralyzer instead of a sedative.

“We hope that other major medical centers and current healthcare providers can use this as a teachable moment to assure the safety of patients and families,” Folse said.

Vaught was sentenced to three years of supervised probation in May.

Folse also recommends nurses buy their own malpractice insurance. Folse said concerns about criminal liability can combine with short staffing and other stressors to cause more aspiring medical professionals to consider other careers, but she said she hasn’t seen that yet.

Folse said interest in nursing careers is up nationwide, but IWU can't take on more nursing students because of a faculty shortage.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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