The nightly news has moved on from the story of Kimberly Hiatt, the Colorado nurse who committed suicide after accidentally overdosing and killing a baby. But for nurses, the potential for living this nightmare lives on.
After making the first mistake in her 24-year career and dispensing 1.4 grams of calcium chloride to an 8-month old at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Hiatt was fired and became the subject of a state nursing commission investigation.
Though uncommon, Hiatt's story could be the undoing of any nurse. According to an articles in the Archives of Surgery, surgeons who believed they made medical errors were more than three times as likely as their counterparts to contemplate suicide.
Hiatt cared for the fragile baby from birth and was even Facebook friends with the parents. Though they never sought damages, they requested her removal from the child’s case.
Her employer follows the Just Culture model, which recognizes the need to correct systems instead of penalize individuals. Officials at Seattle Children’s Hospital have said other factors were considered in Hiatt’s termination.
Since her dismissal and subsequent death, the Washington State Nurses Association, grieved the case and negotiated a confidential settlement on her behalf.
Hospital officials said they've since changed protocols for administering calcium chloride. Every day, new technological innovations add new safeguards to protect against thoughtless error.
Nurses, do the new dispensing equipment, better organized protocols or electronic checklists make you feel any more confident that Hiatt’s story won’t happen to you?