ICU Nurse Reinstatement Upheld by 1st Circuit
by Michael Fox
A hospital challenged the order of an arbitrator reinstating an ICU nurse discharged for failing to properly account for dispensing controlled substances as being against public policy. It only took two sentences to make clear what the end result was going to be. First, "Defendant-appellee Massachusetts Nurses Association (the MNA) is the authorized collective bargaining representative of the nurses who toil there." If more was needed to make the pending outcome clear -- "[o]ver her estimable quarter-century career, Dufault developed a reputation as an industrious, highly skilled nurse" -- was enough to make it clear to me what was coming. Mercy Hospital, Inc. v. Massachusetts Nurses Association (1st Cir. 11/21/05).
Sure enough, the Court found the district court had properly affirmed the arbitrator's holding of reinstatement. Interestingly, one of the undisputed explanations offered by the nurse to explain her conduct was that she had taken drugs to prepare an intravenous drip, even though the doctor's order had called for the drug to be administered by injection. Not such a big deal according to the arbitrator:
The arbitrator also credited testimony that although it was not good practice, a nurse might deviate from a doctor's orders and administer medication intravenously rather than by syringe as a time-saving device.
Didn't seem to bother the Court either. But it would be interesting to see how a similar "deviation" would be treated if it were a malpractice claim against the hospital as opposed to an employee termination.