I write a cozy mystery series about a home healthcare nurse entrepreneur called “Text-A-Nurse.” I was writing Book 3 Body Magnet when the story broke of Ebola in a Dallas hospital. As a former critical care nurse, I knew immediately the staff would be swimming in chaos. I got so aggravated by the antics of the clueless leader of the CDC, I started tweeting about him throwing nurses under the bus.
Six months later, Nina Pham tells us her side of the story. Nina is the Dallas RN who contacted Ebola from patient Thomas Duncan. She’s become a nurse whistleblower by revealing her employer violated her basic HIPAA right to healthcare privacy. She also paints a horrific picture for any nurse reading when she describes the total breakdown by the hospital management teams on every level. Nina didn’t volunteer for her assignment as the hospital spokesman said, but she did her duty like every critical care nurse does daily across the country. She admitted a critical patient to her unit.
I was surprised to find out that when Nina returned from the NIH in Maryland where she became Ebola-free, she heard nothing from her employer, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, administrative staff. From the article, “Pham was greeted with “radio silence” from Texas Health Resources when she returned home. No one called to ask how she was doing or offered to bring food. Huh? Not even a casserole? No welcome back banner?
Reading that homecoming line, broke my heart. Were they punishing her for going to the NIH for the best treatment? Or were they too busy getting their PR nightmare under control with the slogan Presby Proud?
Pham is suing the hospital’s parent company for using her against her wishes for PR purposes even while hospital officials claimed publicly they were more than prepared to handle Ebola cases. Of course when Nina Pham and Amber Vinson became ill, officials had to change their tune. Nina is still being paid by the hospital, but now we’re finding out that even though she’s disease free, she still has physical symptoms. I sense a boxing round with PTSD in her future. Why?
Read her story! Her personal requests to remain anonymous were ignored. A doctor came in to film her for “educational purposes” and released the video without her consent to help boost the hospital’s public image. Shame on him! I’m betting he’s on the hospital board and has hospital stock. What about you?
Year after year, nurses are voted the most trusted of professionals, and yet we find this dedicated nurse felt violated by her employer and by at least one doctor. Her nurses and respiratory therapists performed heroically according to her (no surprises there).
I wish her well and hope the stress of the lawsuit doesn’t set back her healing. Pham received four experimental treatments and they came with horrendous known side effects. Plus, she knows there could be other non-anticipated side effects in the future.
Nina Pham may not think of herself as a whistleblower, but I do. Hospitals need to understand: They don’t own their nurses. They don’t have the right to exploit them or endanger their lives for a news clip. Here’s a new PR slogan for hospitals to chew on: NURSES LIVES MATTER.