Dr. Stephen Jones: Prosecuting nurses for honest mistakes won’t make patients safer

Dr. J. Stephen Jones
J. Stephen Jones, MD, is President and CEO of Inova Health System

Inova’s president and CEO J. Stephen Jones, MD, MBA, FACS had an op-ed piece published in USA Today following Friday’s sentencing of nurse RaDonda Vaught. (While working as a nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2017, Vaught’s accidental administration of the wrong drug to a patient led to the patient’s death. Vaught was later convicted on felony charges.)

In the piece, Jones acknowledges that Vaught’s actions were indeed negligent, but that human errors like the one she made occur in the healthcare field because “we are imperfect people caring for people.” He goes on to say that prosecution “should be reserved for those extremely rare bad actors who knowingly and purposefully cause a patient harm.”

With turnover and vacancy rates in the healthcare profession at dangerous levels, Jones is concerned this case will threaten the public’s view of a career in healthcare, discourage future workers from embarking on a healthcare career, and perhaps prompt current healthcare workers to abandon their jobs altogether.

Jones also fears cases like Vaught’s will negatively affect patient safety because the threat of criminal liability may deter providers from incident reporting and near-miss reporting, both of which are critical to learning and addressing underlying issues among healthcare teams.

Read Dr. Jones’s Op-Ed on the USA Today website:


1 Comment

  1. Laila on October 12, 2023 at 10:22 am

    I agree with Dr. Jones, well said. it is crucial to report near misses to improve on opportunities.

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