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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Case of Nurse Fired After Mouthing Off to Police Officer Back in Court

Published September 29, 2010 8:07 AM by Linda Jones
Is there no separation between one's personal and professional life? It seems that society holds people to the standards of their profession at all times. Perhaps it is that we believe these people are role models and should maintain the same characteristics even when not working or not in the workplace. For example, it seems worse when a teacher gets a DUI or a politician is unfaithful, because we expect those people to be held to certain standards of behavior at all times. Do people have similar expectations of nurses? Should they?

The question comes to play as many people are weighing in on the 2008 case of Miriam Leverington, a cardiac nurse in Colorado Springs, CO, who mouthed off to an officer who was giving her a traffic ticket.

According to The Denver Post, Leverington reportedly said to the officer, "I hope you are not ever my patient." The police officer, Duaine Peters, issued a complaint to the city-run hospital, Memorial Health System, where Leverington worked. The hospital apparently agreed that her comment amounted to a threat and she was fired.

Leverington is countersuing Peters and the city of Colorado Springs saying she was exercising free speech when she made the comment. She lost her case at the U.S. District Court after a judge found her statement was not protected speech. The case is now being decided by a federal appeals court, reported The New York Times.

The Denver Post reports the court might issue a ruling within several weeks.

Was the hospital right to fire Leverington? Did the nurse have the "right" to say what she did and expect to keep her job? Should nurses and other professionals be held to standards of their profession even when they are not working or representing their employer?

posted by Linda Jones

9 comments

This should have NEVER happened between two professionals in the first place. They are trained and expected to be "a rung above" on the ladder of service professionals. The nurse was definitely wrong in "mouthing off" to a ANYONE with a threatening tone who may be her patient. She is a representative of the hospital, and she brought this to light by her comment. This was a true threat, because she could do harm if in fact he was ever a patient under her care or access, if she was so in mind to, and evidently she considered retributation or she would have never said what she did. We are becoming more familiar with "bullying" in our profession, and this is a "zero tolerance" issue.

Wilma Matti, Nursing - Manager, CMC June 5, 2011 11:34 AM
Lincolnton NC

Ms. Leverington could just have easily remained silent until that one fateful day… when this pathetic cop arrived at Memorial Hospital. Then, oops, she inserts the wrong needle into the wrong vein with the wrong drug. Then, Cop Peters would be put out of his misery. This guy should be very careful not to pull his behavior on the wrong person. He may never know who is waiting for him at night in a dark alley.

Eduardo Segovia June 1, 2011 3:48 PM

On May 6 Miriam Leverington lost her appeal. The court ruled that her comments made to the police officer were not protected by the First Amendment.

Linda Jones May 12, 2011 7:27 AM

Professionalism doesn't stop, upon entering or leaving a door. Reflects upon category of other people of that profession and personal upbringing by parents.Think as you please but keep those thoughts to self, or express privately.Also reflects your own ignorance and disrespect for self and how you expect to be treated by others. My Dad always said "birds of a feather, flock together "

april Glenn, Gereatrics - RN, self March 25, 2011 12:36 AM
Phila PA

no one knows the details of the situation. i do not believe a normal person would retort like that for no reason without being provoked. my question is, if this officer was not an officer but a homeless person harassing her on the street and she fired off that comment, should she still have been fired? if ANYONE says it would be different, that's discrimination. very orwellish. we all should be very frightened. . .

sarah October 19, 2010 6:40 PM
CA

everyone has vented at one point something that they regret saying, and i feel that's what happened.   she shouldn't have said it, but  i'm sure it didn't justify him tracking down her employer (i've NEVER seen that info on a ticket) to get her in trouble with her boss.  so they were both wrong.  ethically - i would hope that if he ever did get sick, the nurse or he would request a change in patient assignment.

kim , lpn October 2, 2010 8:09 AM
FL

Her statement was ambiguous at best, she should not have been fired. I hope she wins her case.

Dan Jackson, cardiac - RN September 30, 2010 4:36 AM
Birmingham AL

As a nurse myself I do not feel she should have been fired because just like teachers and politicians that we hold to these higher standards all the time, they are people first. Her anger at that moment did not determine what kind of care she would have given to him or any other patient.

Rhonda September 29, 2010 10:50 PM

If she got stopped over anything that broke the law then she should have shut up. While many police officer show some leniency towards medical personal that doesnt mean you can get away with speeding or any other traffic violation. Secondly, what she said is a threat. She is putting our reputation as nurses in question. I am glad she got fired, she deserved it.

Wanda September 29, 2010 2:01 PM

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