Vanderbilt should lose Magnet status over RaDonda Vaught's treatment, nurses say

Some nurses are urging the American Nurses Credentialing Center not to renew Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Magnet designation, arguing that the hospital's response to RaDonda Vaught's fatal medication error and conviction do not align with the program's mission to create an environment where nurses flourish.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center is applying for redesignation of its Magnet designation for Vanderbilt University Hospital's adult enterprise and must undergo a site evaluation this month, according to a public notice posted on the organization's website.

The credentialing center's Magnet recognition program commends hospitals for their excellence in nursing services. Vanderbilt has received the designation in 2006, 2012 and 2017.

In 2017, Ms. Vaught made a fatal medication error while working as a nurse at Vanderbilt, for which she was sentenced to three years of probation in May after being found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and abuse of an impaired adult. 

Ms. Vaught immediately took responsibility for the error, which occurred after she overrode a medication cabinet, but contends that other factors and working conditions for nurses at the medical center contributed to the mistake. For example, she said that Vanderbilt directed nurses to use overrides to overcome cabinet delays and regular technical issues caused by an ongoing overhaul of the hospital's EHR system. Vanderbilt fired Ms. Vaught in January 2018, and the Tennessee Board of Nursing stripped her of her license in 2021.

"So many things had to line up incorrectly for this error to have happened, and my actions were not alone in that," Ms. Vaught told ABC News in May. In 2018, Vanderbilt shared a plan of correction with CMS to address deficiencies identified in a federal investigation after the fatal error.

Ms. Vaught's case has spurred an outcry from nurses across the country, many of whom have expressed concerns about the likelihood of similar mistakes under increasingly difficult working conditions. 

Now, nurses from across the U.S. are penning letters to the credentialing center ahead of Vanderbilt's site visit, saying the organization should not allow the hospital to keep its Magnet designation. 

"The mission of the Magnet Recognition Program is to 'continually elevate patient care around the world in an environment where nurses flourish,'" Jenna Lukis, BSN, RN, wrote in emailed comments to the credentialing center, which she shared Aug. 2 in the Nurses March for RaDonda's Law Facebook group. "With their actions in 2017 and their inaction in 2022, VUMC has demonstrated to the entire country that their hospital does not align with this mission."

Ms. Lukis' post garnered more than 30 comments, many from nurses who said they had also sent letters to the credentialing center about Vanderbilt's Magnet status. The deadline to submit comments is Aug. 6. 

Vanderbilt did not immediately respond to Becker's request for comment.

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