Playing hide the bullet – will there be action against this physician’s license? Probably not – but if it was a nurse? You betcha!

In her blog, Nursing Law & Order, LaTonia Denise Wright posed an interesting question related to a case out of Tampa, Florida where a trauma surgeon took a bullet out of a patient (who was shot by police, no less!) and kept it as a souvenir.  The question she posed is what would happen if this was a nurse and she suggests that nursing staff bylaws are the answer.  I’m not so sure, as you can tell from the comment I left, which I reprint below (because it seemed like a good blog post itself!)

See the Tampa story here.

We all know what would happen to this nurse – in most states, they would be fired and reported to the board.  Then the board would likely suspend their license (possibly probated, if they were lucky) and impose stipulations.  And it would be reasonably appropriate to do so (the probated suspension, that is).  And it will follow the nurse in his/her career in perpetuity.

The big question here is what will happen to this physician’s medical license.  Probably nothing.  Possibly some sort of warning and report to the NPDB.  But likely this will not impact his career at all – probably it will impact the career of that resident, though.  I bet he will be shunned after this incident/media reporting!

I’m not sure nursing staff bylaws would help here – this became a criminal matter quickly and would be reported to the board (if it were a nurse).  And as employee’s of the hospital, rather than independant contractors like the physicians, the consequences are related more to the emmployer/employee relationship rather than a staff relationship.  Since it is an employer/employee relationship, that argues for some sort of “union” or association of nurses to provide these protections.  How would you propose to structure a hospital if nurses had this sort of system?

And I agree with your point about due process – we have a peer review system here in Texas for nurses which offers some statutorily defined notice and due process, but the result is generally the same. It comes down to how physicians are independant contractors and bring business to the hospital (adding to the top line) while a nurse is just a cost which weighs on the bottom line of the hospital (plus we are fungible – we can be replaced without changing the nature of the business while physicians leave and take business with them).  Fair – not in a million years.


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