VHHA Statement on Conviction of Former Vanderbilt University Medical Center Nurse

April 14, 2022

RICHMOND, VA – With the unanimous support of its Board of Directors, the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) today issued the following statement regarding the March 25, 2022 conviction of former Vanderbilt University Medical Center nurse RaDonda Vaught for criminally negligent homicide and impaired elder abuse in connection to a December 2017 incident in which she mistakenly administered the wrong medication to a patient resulting in the patient’s death.

“Delivery of health care services can be extremely complex and often occurs in fast-paced, high-stress environments, at times on an emergency basis. Unfortunately, mistakes happen, sometimes with tragic consequences. Learning from those mistakes and implementing best practices and corrective action are an important component of delivering safe care, protecting patients, and ensuring mistakes are not repeated. In fact, the VHHA and its member health systems have made it a strategic priority to apply the principles of highly reliable organizations and create learning cultures that are constantly designing safe systems and viewing medical errors as opportunities to improve patient safety and outcomes. To support this work, in 2013, the VHHA established the federally-certified Virginia Patient Safety Organization (PSO), providing a forum for aggregation and sharing of adverse event data and root cause analyses and identifying opportunities for improvement and avoidance of harm across multiple health systems and other provider organizations. In 2017, the VHHA launched its “Virginians Speak Up for Safety” awards program to acknowledge the efforts of individuals and teams within Virginia hospitals who speak up to prevent potential harm to patients or other staff members. Promotion and support for speaking up about safety without concerns of negative repercussions is a key principle of highly reliable organizations. The VHHA believes that employees who feel safe and empowered to speak up to peers as well as to those in authority are able to do so because of a positive safety culture in their organization and that this is a vital component on the journey to achieving zero harm.

VHHA is extremely concerned about the implications of, and precedent set by, criminally charging and convicting health care providers for medical errors. This will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the willingness of nurses, physicians, and other clinicians to report errors and facilitate the shared learning that is so critically important to safe patient care.

VHHA is even more concerned with how this conviction will impact our health care providers, particularly our nurses who have served on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly two years. Nurses and other health care providers have experienced untold stress leading to burnout, mental and physical health challenges, and, in some cases, nurses leaving the profession altogether.

The challenges of COVID-19 and their impact on nurses have contributed to an unprecedented nurse staffing crisis in Virginia and nationally. Add to these challenges the prospect of potential criminal prosecution for unintentional medical errors and our nursing crisis will only continue to grow.

VHHA strongly supports our nurses and other health care providers, and we are actively working with our members and stakeholders to address the challenges facing the nursing profession. We will continue to work with our members and other stakeholders to determine what steps need to be taken to ensure our nurses are protected and encouraged to continue reporting medical errors to improve patient safety.”

About VHHA: The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association is an alliance of 110 hospitals and 25 health delivery systems that develops and advocates for sound health care policy in the Commonwealth. Its mission is to achieve excellence in both health care and health to make Virginia the healthiest state in the nation. Its vision is through collaboration with members and stakeholders, to ensure the sustainability of Virginia health care system, transform the delivery of care to promote lower costs and high value across the continuum of care, and to improve health for all Virginians. Connect with VHHA through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram.


Julian Walker
Vice President of Communications
(804) 297-3193 office
(804) 304-7402 mobile