A Loaded Question, I’m Afraid, But Is there Organizational Culpability for this Nurses’ Tragic, Fatal MVA?

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Elizabeth-Jasper-jpgThere are lots of details yet to be discovered and I am reluctant to take a side without knowing more about the hospital’s perspective. However, I am compelled to share some thoughts/resources, and follow the wrongful death lawsuit filed against Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati by the husband of  38 year old Bone Marrow Transplant Nurse, Wife and Mother of two young children, Beth Jasper who died in an MVA on her way home from work 3/16/2013.

I do know that nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals are being pushed beyond reasonable human expectations in many organizations and that much in the legal complaint seems common place, except what appears to be an extraordinary effort on the part of Jasper’s supervisor, Mary Alliston, to report and address staffing and training issues.  It looks like she tried very hard to address staffing issues via the chain of command and I’m not sure that is commonplace.

I remember taking a concern about staffing up the ladder and write about it in “Recognizing the Complexity of Assertiveness” and it was extraordinarily stressful.  In some cultures, we know that nurses’ concerns about staffing may be dismissed, ignored, or countered with something like , “if you don’t like it go someplace else”, or “If you can’t do it, we’ll get someone who can”.   What happens to human beings who are ignored or intimidated?  What is the point of ‘speaking up’ if it only brings trouble or if no one is listening.  For nurses to be assertive, they need to be able to say “I can’t work overtime tonight,’ ‘I need help with this new IV pump’, and ‘Dr.  That’s the wrong leg!”.  This may represent a paradox for leaders who need staff to work overtime and want to create safe cultures.

If you are skeptical about how the healthcare workforce is feeling/being treated, please read the round table report by the Lucian Leape Institute-National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) released last winter or  related blogpost:  Through the Eyes of the Workforce-Finally! Healthcare Professionals Exhale & Hope w/ Report from Lucian Leape Institute at NPSF!

My heart goes out to Nurse Jasper’s family and colleagues.  It may be hard to prove a legal connection to her death, yet I believe there is  a moral responsibility for leaders to promote safe workloads, and assertiveness training and practice.

Taking care of healthcare professionals is a theme for Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog and we’ll follow the lawsuit.  Ultimately, organizational leaders who listen and promote healthy workloads will contribute to safe care for patients and assertiveness for nurses.

What thoughts do you have?




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3 Responses to A Loaded Question, I’m Afraid, But Is there Organizational Culpability for this Nurses’ Tragic, Fatal MVA?

  1. Pingback: Sleep Deprivation as a Social, Organizational and Healthcare Issue (Book Review)

  2. Can easily imagine how a nurse taking on extra shifts either out of altruism or simply because he/she needed the money could stretch themselves too thin and not realize how tired they really were.

    Question is, what this nurse working her normal hours at the time, or had she volunteered to stay later past her scheduled shift. Unless it was a Mandatory Overtime situation, think they would have a difficult time proving their case 🙁

    • Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for your insights. I can imagine the same reasoning for taking on extra shifts as well as difficulty proving causality. I tend to think about what happens to human beings when they speak up, but are ignored. Do they keep speaking up or shut down. And where do responsibilities lie? I think nurses need to speak up and leaders need to listen, but in my experience both are often lacking. And do you know if a nurse has any recourse aside from leaving her job if chronic understaffing and/or lack of responsiveness is ongoing? Hard to make people accountable for listening, yet it seems like something we all should be doing.

      In any case, a sad story for this nurse and her family. We do need to be able to say “No”. Safer for us and our patients.


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