“Why a nurse should not go to jail”
A KevinMD interview with Barbara Olson

July 20, 2022

“From a place of personal accountability and commitment to system improvement, RaDonda Vaught’s conduct in the aftermath of this tragic event has been exemplary. She told what she knew, as soon as she knew it, to any stakeholder, for any purpose in hopes that understanding her actions, state of mind, priorities, omissions, and flaws could help her patient or any other. Much of what we have learned comes from the painful, candid narrative of RaDonda Vaught, at no small consequence to herself. She is the nurse the patient safety community has longed for, indeed has spent two-and-half decades nurturing.

She should not go to jail.”

Barbara L. Olson is a nurse and senior advisor, The Just Culture Company. She supports health care clients in planning and sustaining Just Culture as a system of workplace justice and can be reached on Twitter @safetynurse.

Current Articles


May 6, 2022

Are you troubled by the criminalization of a medical error that recently occurred within a present-day healthcare organization? How do we come to the right conclusions about accountability? Are you looking for ways to prevent similar events from occurring in your own organization?

Join leaders from ISMP and The Just Culture Company for a 90-minute conversation about lessons learned in the aftermath of a fatal medication error. You’ll learn more about common, yet often unresolved system vulnerabilities, as well as key strategies and priorities needed to advance your organization’s safety journey.

April 4, 2022
In the wake of these convictions, police officers and healthcare providers alike have expressed a renewed fear that their own fallibility might earn them a prison term. This article is not a call to action for criminal justice reform, nor a root cause analysis of what transpired in each case. Rather, it is targeted

April 7, 2022
For a more detailed analysis of the events involving RaDonda Vaught, and an explanation of at-risk behavior, please refer to our earlier article (below) and to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices commentary about the trial in the ISMP Medication Safety Alert! at: www.ismp.org/node/30912 beginning April 7, 2022.

March 2, 2019
How could the State of Tennessee be prosecuting a nurse for what the safety community calls a medication error?

Given the dialogue, I thought it important to speak to this prosecution through the lens of a just culture. Within a just culture, should there be a call to criminally prosecute RaDonda Vaught for her role in the death of Charlene Murphey?