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Should Nurse Nina Pham Sue?

Should Nurse Nina Pham Sue? Should Nurse Nina Pham Sue?

Should Nurse Nina Pham sue Texas Health Resources, parent company of Texas Presbyterian Hospital, for gross negligence?

Nurse Nina Pham

Nurse Nina Pham cared for her patient, Thomas Eric Dunn, who was infected with the deadly Ebola virus, right up until his death. She nursed him at grave danger to herself and before the proper resources and protocols were put in place to protect her.

Nina Pham only did what nurses do every day- work-arounds. Work-arounds for insufficient resources, including insufficient staffing and equipment. Work-arounds that often involve tape and nurse ingenuity.

Should Nurse Nina Pham Sue?

Should Nurse Nina Pham Sue?

Usually the results are not catastrophic and the job gets done.

But not this time. For Nurse Nina Pham, a direct result of caring for Mr. Dunn was that she contracted Ebola.

Thankfully, Nina Pham survived, but her fledgling nursing career is now sidelined. She has not fully recovered her health, she is unable to work, and the side effects she faces from Ebola and the treatment she received are terrifyingly unknown.

One of Nina’s latest symptoms is that her hair is falling out. She fears the social stigma of having been infected with Ebola and wonders if she’ll be able to get pregnant some day.

Nurse Nina Pham has lost her privacy, her life as she knew it, and, painfully, trust in her employer.

Her own employer used her as a pawn in their efforts to redeem their image.

Dr. Gary Weinstein and the Video

In the video filmed by Dr. Weinstein, Dr. Weinstein cheerfully portrays himself as an overly solicitous  doctor in full isolation garb interviewing Nina Pham. He  urges her not to cry while handing her tissues and asking if she needs anything.

Clearly the video was a PR ploy by Texas Health Resources to show Nina as a loyal and grateful employee who was improving due to their care, and to associate Texas Presbyterian Hospital with Nina’s likeable and sympathetic image.

The reality is that a hospital made a decision to enlist one of their doctors to produce and release a film of one of their own patients. A twenty-six year old, medicated and isolated patient with a life threatening disease, on an emotional roller coaster (if not suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) who had just watched her patient die from Ebola.

Texas Presbyterian Hospital

Texas Presbyterian Hospital showed a lack of leadership and did not respond with urgency when faced with the crisis of a deadly virus, initially leaving their nurses to figure out what to do.

Next they produced and released a video of a very ill, very vulnerable patient. Who also happens to be an employee.

Then they failed to proactively prevent a predictable lawsuit from said employee.

Admittedly, (allegedly?) they do not appear to be adept at crisis management.

Nurse Nina Pham’s Decision to Sue

Should she sue? Maybe the better question is: “What does Nurse Nina want, and will she gain it through the legal system?” paraphrased from @dougkempf

Sometimes noble people sue for noble reasons, motivated by a desire to stand up for their personal beliefs or principles.

Sometimes fair-minded people sue for justice, and to prevent the same from happening to someone else.

Sometimes injured people justifiably sue to regain financial losses and anticipated financial losses.

And sometimes people sue because they are overly influenced by people who would use them, and who do not have their best interests at heart.

Regardless, there is a steep price to be paid.

  • Will suing her employer mean that no hospital will ever hire Nurse Nina Pham?
  • Will the settlement (and of course this will end in an out of court settlement with undisclosed terms) offset the trauma that Texas Health Resources’ hardball lawyers will subject Nina to?
  • Will it be worth the long, drawn-out emotional affair ahead? What will the effect be on her health?
  • If it goes to court, will nurse employees of Texas Presbyterian testify on Nina’s behalf?

My heart goes out to young Nurse Nina Pham, who through no fault of her own, has found herself in the eye of the storm. My hope is that she has friends and family who are providing wise counsel to help her make the decisions that are best for her as she navigates this time in her life.

Read Nurse Eye Roll Kati’s Open letter to Nina here, calling nurses to support our colleague.

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What are your thoughts? What would you do?

Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth




About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

11 Comments on Should Nurse Nina Pham Sue?

  1. A serious problem that exists is Hospitals hiring Nurses with a BSN/MSN with little or no clinical experience. Been a RN for 30 plus years, ED, SICU,MICU,CCU, CTICU, BURN UNIT, RESPITORY and a Nurse with 2 years experience is going tell me what to do!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Yes, she should sue. I would have done so sooner. It was clear from my distant view that this whole situation was a cluster f***. Of course they will settle out of court for an undisclosed amount. I hope the amount is enough to teach her for profit employer a lesson. I hope it is enough for Nina RN to live on for the rest of her life. The HIPPA law was written for her. Perhaps criminal charges should be made.

  3. Beth,
    Thanks for starting this much needed discussion.
    Do we as nurses give up our HIPPA rights when/if hospitalized?
    And, if she settles out of court…the situation may be the same as it is for many nurses with disabilities who sue….part of the agreement may be to keep quiet…Then a nurse will be lost as well as the story.

  4. Thank you, Lisa. It’s a conversation that needs to happen.It is about safety and care.

  5. Based on HIPPA and the ANA Bill of Rights for nurses, she has a case and hopefully a great lawyer. It’s time nurses started speaking out about working on the frontline and the risks we endure everyday. What’s that new buzz word all the Magnet hospitals are using?? Transparency?? Yeah, right. We are 3.1 million strong. I say we can do it better. I’m not saying for the compensation. It is about safety, care and compassion. Big corporate…. Not so much. Great contemplation for many nurses right now as the truth starts to surface across the nation. Thank you for helping to start the conversation.

  6. I’m certain she has a very good attorney and is getting very qualified advice. Her HIPAA rights were blatently violated when she became a patient. My guess is that if this is settled out of court she probably will have enough if invested wisely to tide her over for a very long time. If she goes to court it’s not a matter of if the Hospital broke the law, but to what degree. Either way it could be years before she sees a penny.

    • I agree they used her and I think they will settle out of court to avoid further bad press.

      • More bad press is what they need. Shame on them for using Nina as a scapegoat for their lack of preparation/education. I hope she receives remuneration sooner than later. Even more importantly, I hope she continues to practice nursing, if that is what is best for her. If not, if this whole mess has caused her to leave our profession then that is a great loss. We nurses do so much, and so often for so little.

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