KOMO News Problem Makers

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Tracy Vedder with our Seattle-based TV KOMO News Problem Solvers should have been at our panel discussion yesterday on med errors and the consequences for nurses. Perhaps she could have learned something. But instead she was hot on the case of two Seattle Children’s Hospital nurses who were charged with professional misconduct yesterday by the Washington State Nursing Commission. Last night she aired a news piece that sensationalizes and distorts the facts.

The online link to the video news portion is bookended by an ad for UNICEF. A mop-headed sad-faced boy says, “22,000 children die every day for reasons the world has the power to prevent.” It then cuts to the two newscasters sitting behind a desk with a large screen in front stating in large letters: “Nurses Charged”. Then Tracy Vedder is shown in front of the Washington State Department of Health, and states that two Children’s Hospital nurses were charged with unprofessional conduct—with SERIOUS conduct violations (her head spins around to emphasize ‘serious’). She goes on to name the two nurses several times. She describes the transport nurse as giving three medications “without any doctor’s orders” and says the baby in that case died. She states the ER nurse gave an adult patient epinephrine by IV instead of IM. The patient had arrhythmias but was stabilized.

Ms. Vedder fails to mention that the medications the transport nurse gave were appropriate ones, that the medical examiner determined the baby died of natural causes, and that both state and federal authorities cited Children’s Hospital with a lack of clear guidelines for transport staff.  Tracy Vedder also fails to report that in the case of the ER nurse, an ER doctor incorrectly prescribed the epinephrine to be given IV, but was not charged because he “didn’t intend any harm.”  All of this information is in easily obtained publicly available documents, including official written statements by Dr. David Fisher, Medical Director for Seattle Children’s Hospital.

By contrast, Carol Ostrom (please note, this is her correct name–not Tracy Ostrom–apologies Carol!) of the Seattle Times has a remarkably balanced and insightful article today about the nurses being charged. She was at our panel discussion yesterday, but I draw no cause and effect conclusions. I think it was a case of selection bias. Yesterday in the panel discussion, NPR’s Joanne Silburner encouraged the audience to be responsible consumers of news media, and to recognize the limitations of TV news. She also encouraged nurses in the audience to speak out more, to know which newspaper reporters are professional (including ethical), and to talk with those reporters when given the opportunity. I would add: stop watching TV news. Lead by example.

The other lesson I learned yesterday: Kim Hiatt’s suicide should be a “never again” event, and all of us have a responsibility to ensure that is the case. Two of our nurses in Seattle are being publicly fried by KOMO News and others. Let’s not be silent about that. In whatever ways we can, we should each offer appropriate support to these two nurses—and to all of the ‘collateral damage’ nurses who know and have worked with them.