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After her conviction in a patient’s death, a nurse seeks to regain her license


RaDonda Vaught was sentenced to probation in a highly watched case. Nursing leaders denounced her conviction and warned it sends a chilling message.

A year after she was convicted in the death of a patient, RaDonda Vaught is petitioning to regain her nursing license.

RaDonda Vaught, who is serving a probation sentence following the death of a patient, is aiming to have her nursing license restored. (Image credit: ©Valerii Evlakhov - stock.adobe.com)

RaDonda Vaught, who is serving a probation sentence following the death of a patient, is aiming to have her nursing license restored. (Image credit: ©Valerii Evlakhov - stock.adobe.com)

Vaught appeared in court in Tennessee last week in an attempt to regain her license, WKRN-TV in Nashville and other media reported.

In an interview with WKRN, Vaught said she doesn’t plan to resume her career as a nurse. But she said she would like to highlight some of the challenges in the profession. She also said she’s aiming to shed more light on the Tennessee Board of Nursing’s decision to revoke her license. Vaught told the news outlet that she’d like to bring changes to the profession.

“I don’t have any interest in ever practicing nursing again. It’s not something I think I would be capable of doing and I don’t honestly believe that I would ever be able to receive my nursing license,” she told WKRN.

“If I can speak out and advocate for improvements in our systems and better working conditions and safer care for patients, then I have every intention of continuing to do that. I would hope for a little more clarity, some accountability from the people who work in healthcare and who will ultimately receive healthcare,” she said.

Under the terms of her sentence, Vaught’s conviction could be wiped off her record if she completes the probationary program successfully, The Tennessean and other media outlets reported.

In March 2022, Vaught was convicted of negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult in a trial that commanded the attention of nursing and healthcare leaders around the country. Last May, Vaught was sentenced to three years of probation and her nursing license was revoked.

In 2017, Vaught, then a nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, gave 75-year-old patient Charlene Murphey a dose of a paralyzing drug, vecuronium, instead of a sedative.

After Vaught’s conviction in March, nurses and healthcare groups warned the verdict could have a chilling effect on the healthcare profession. Some leaders said nurses and doctors would be more reluctant to disclose errors for fear of being prosecuted, and that could create additional risks for the safety of patients.

Some warned the verdict would drive nurses out of the profession, worsening a nationwide nursing shortage.

Rebecca Love, chief clinical officer of IntelyCare, told Chief Healthcare Executive® in a November 2022 interview that the Vaught verdict has prompted nurses to consider changing careers.

“The RaDonda Vaught verdict, which led to a criminal prosecution of a nurse for a self-reported medical error, has led the vast majority of nurses to reconsider their profession,” Love said.

“The reason being is that as a nurse, previously, we knew if we made a medical error, we could lose our job, we could lose our license, and we could lose our livelihood,” she added. “But as a nurse, I don't believe any of us ever believed that in our best intentions to save patients' lives, if we made an unintentional error that results in harm to a patient, that we could also go to jail.”

The American Nurses Association and Tennessee Nurses Association both said in March 2022 that they were “deeply distressed by this verdict and the harmful ramifications of criminalizing the honest reporting of mistakes.”

“The criminalization of medical errors is unnerving, and this verdict sets into motion a dangerous precedent," the nursing groups said.

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