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A co-worker was accused of murdering a patient. Even though a criminal investigation cleared the nurse completely, a family member is harassing the nurse. Any suggestions?

Tuesday April 2, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I work in an ICU where we have end-of-life situations often. An end- stage patient and the spouse asked that they be made comfortable while they spend their last moments with their family. The patient was a medical professional, familiar with end-of-life care and had requested a morphine drip. After the patient expired, one of the adult children accused the nurse of murdering the patient. The family member called the sheriff, state and city authorities and a full criminal investigation was launched. They found the nurse completely innocent of any wrongdoing, legally or medically. This family member has contacted several hospital employees trying to get incriminating evidence against this nurse. Also, this person has contacted the nurse via social media. My management is markedly silent on this situation. Any suggestions?

Needs Suggestions

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Needs Suggestions,

The nurse being harassed should report these events to the police and should keep detailed notes about related events, including copies or screen shots of any electronic communication, comments and messages.

Also, the nurse should consult a nurse attorney, or any competent attorney, to protect his or her rights and safety. What you describe is a serious and potentially harmful situation and needs to be addressed. Whether the hospital is involved in the situation or not doesn't matter at this point since the actions of the family seem to be personal. The nurse has to take steps to protect himself or herself. The nurse's reputation, livelihood, potential further legal action, and possibly even personal safety, not to mention emotional health, are at stake.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.