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How should a seasoned RN with an outstanding record handle allegations of not maintaining a home health agency's equipment?

Friday March 21, 2014
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

I had a supervisory position for three hours a week for a home health agency. Several months after we were seeing a CP child with no tracheotomy nor excessive secretions, we found an old suction machine under a pile of blankets. It did not work. There was no order for it.

Several months later the owner of the agency was in trouble for many things and she turned me into the board for failure to maintain emergency equipment. What should I do about this? I have been an outstanding nurse for 50 years.

Helene



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Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Helene,

It is unfortunate you have found yourself in this situation. However, you need to be proactive in defending yourself against the allegation(s) that was reported to the state board of nursing. Seeking the advice of a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state would be essential since this allegation is serious and you do not want to face it without legal advice.

Many questions come to mind that you did not elaborate upon. Who found the machine? Under what circumstances was it found? What does your job description say about this responsibility? If it requires you to maintain emergency equipment, how is that to be carried out? Are you to take the word of the home health care nurse in the home or are you required to visit homes to determine if any equipment there is in working order. If the machine was housed in the agency, were you oriented to what machines were in the agency and how they were to be maintained ? Is there a policy/procedure for this at the agency?

It may well be that the owner is trying to take you down with her due to her problems. This often is a tactic when anyone is in trouble. It is much more comforting to try and divert attention away from oneself in an attempt to be seen in a more favorable light.

Even so, you need to defend yourself, especially if this was a duty for which you were responsible. Your attorney may be able to show there was no way you were aware of the existence of the machine, may raise the fact that this was not your responsibility or raise other facts or mitigating issues that will help you avoid any disciplinary action.

Cordially,
Nancy




Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.