May 10th, 2012
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
When we were planning our coverage for Nurses Week here at RNCentral my editor asked if there was anything new on the Amanda Trujillo front we could include. My first reaction was, “not really.” Then I got to thinking. National Nurses Week isn’t all about ice cream socials and coffee mugs. While it is a week to talk about whom we are and what we want for the future of nursing it is also a time, I think, to talk about some of the darker aspects of this career choice and where we go with those issues.
Nurses should be recognized for all they do for their patients, their facilities, and their community. It is great to be appreciated. I think during this week of focusing on advocacy, leading, and caring we should also look at nurses who believe they are doing the right thing but get called on the carpet.
The Case of Amanda Trujillo
In case you have somehow missed this story this year, Amanda Trujillo is a nurse who is under investigation by the Arizona State Board of Nursing (AZBON). The very short version, as Trujillo tells it, is she advocated for one of her patients, used hospital approved teaching materials, stayed with the scope of practice routinely used at her facility and dictated by the Arizona State Board of Nursing, suggested to her patient that they might want to get information on alternative treatments from the surgery proposed by the patient's physician and followed through on the patient's request to have a hospice consultation.
For that, she seemingly angered a physician by disrupting his plans, he pursued having her fired, and her hospital did not stand up for her practice. She is now threatened with losing her license and has, for the most part, lost her livelihood.
I am not here to judge but on the face of it, this case raised a lot of question for nurses everywhere. It got us talking. Did we really understand our scope of practice, what is informed consent, what do boards of nursing really have the right to do, and will we stand up for our own in a country that believes you are innocent until proven guilty?
It’s been volatile, to say the least.
Now, under the advice of her attorney, Trujillo is no longer talking about her case before the AZBON at all. However, she is talking. Trujillo has joined the ranks of the bloggers who first trumpeted her cause. Actually, she has been a blogger for quite some time but now this outlet has become a kind of lifeline for her and as she put it to me in a conversation recently, “it's my only way to teach and contribute to nursing—that for me is the most therapeutic thing—knowing that maybe I’m making a change for nurses or patient care.”
At the end of April Trujillo decided to answer questions of the many people who have contacted her. Not about her case, but about her life as a nurse, her beliefs about nursing, and where she wants to go when this all ends. Trujillo has been living the online life with questions coming in to her in e-mails, tweets, Facebook messages, and other formats since her story went public.
”It's public knowledge (the case), the process, so you have that to reference for facts,” she told me. “What I hate is that people have turned me into just some ‘name’ like I’m not human, like I’m a concept.” And Trujillo is very human: she has dogs, eats ice cream when she’s frustrated, and just wants to have some normalcy in her life while she waits for her next hearing.
One of the questions she chose to answer on her blog was one I would have asked as well, here it is:
”Q: What do you hope to achieve by blogging, what’s the point?”
"A: A lot! One of the goals I had for my career was leaving the profession of nursing better than how it was handed to me. I wanted to leave nursing a more informed, supportive, transformational, and stronger profession to enter into. Blogging, writing, speaking–whatever the medium, allows me to share my experiences–whether they be failures or triumphs; my perspectives, my ‘nursing survival cheat sheets’ to others. This is all I have right now to give, my blog is a place I can use my advanced education to hopefully make a positive difference for a profession I love so much. I always wanted to teach, and I loved, loved, loved teaching patients and families so my blog affords me the chance to use everything I learned in school and share it with nurses at the bedside who can use it! I have a Master’s degree, and finished half of a family nurse practitioner program as well as almost two semesters of a DNP program. It would be a shame to just let it all go dormant in the back of my brain.”
And there you have it. Trujillo in her own words, finding a way to stay active in a profession she has committed years of her life to be part of. I can’t fault her for finding a new way to use all her training. Nursing is one of the most flexible educations you can get with hundreds of different ways to put it into practice.
"I’d like people to see me as a human being, I’m a nurse, just like them; I just took the rocky road less traveled to do something to make things right,” Trujillo told me. “I’m not any less of a nurse than anybody else—at least, I don’t think so.”
Another RN Sues For Her Career
Trujillo isn’t alone in fighting for what she thinks is right. Recently we learned of a nurse in Colorado who is also facing a battle for her professional standing. Deborah Patterson says Mercy Regional Medical Center violated a state law forbidding retaliation against registered healthcare workers for expressing concern about patient safety and quality of care.
Now, she is suing the hospital, claiming she was fired for expressing concerns about understaffing and poor morale. According to the Durango Herald, the defendants declined comment, saying they have not seen the lawsuit.
We are waiting for further details on this case. But, what this all says to me is that nurses fight for what they believe is right. Again, it is not for me to judge them. Until I hear otherwise I have opinions and try to believe the best.
So, during this week of celebration of nurses, here and around the world, take a minute to think of all the things we do. They aren’t all comfortable, they don’t all come with orders or protocols, and they definitely aren’t always easy. Like every job, every trade, every profession there is good and there is bad. Nurses week would take on some serious meat if we would take a little time to look at our darker sides and make plans for improving by Nurses Week 2013.