A Michigan hospital is facing a lawsuit filed by one of its own nurses today in what sounds like a troubling cases of racism compounded by ineptitude. Tonya Battle says the father of a patient in the neonatal intensive care unit demanded "no black nurses" treat his baby at the Hurley Medical Center. Sick?
It gets worse. Battle's lawsuit alleges the facility took the racist man's side.
The lawsuit claims a note was posted advising "No African American nurse to take care of baby," and the baby was reassigned to another nurse. Battle says she was also reassigned to another patient, and nurses of color were kept from the baby for a month-long stay.
That was October. Now here we are in February, and Battle isn't suing to have access to the baby. She's suing for punitive damages for "emotional stress, mental anguish, humiliation and damage to her reputation."
If what she's alleging is true, the lawsuit sounds warranted.
So let's talk about what the hospital SHOULD have done here. Say you're a charge nurse. You have an angry father showing you a swastika on his arm and demanding black nurses be kept away from his baby. Do you agree with him just to shut the freak show up? Do you tell him to grab his baby and hit the road?
It's a hard call. Obviously the first option is wrong. That's allegedly what has this hospital in the midst of a lawsuit.
And yet, the second isn't exactly right either. Bosses need to stand up for their employees, especially in the face of such blatant bigotry. But we're talking about a sick child here. Who knows what it would have done to this little guy to move him?
So then what is the answer? Is there a middle ground?
I benefit from 20/20 hindsight here, but I can't help but wonder if this all would have been averted if the charge nurse had opened up to Battle and made her a part of the process.
Say she'd told the man that "sorry, no, we don't practice discrimination in the workplace," but looped Battle in. Say she'd told her nurse she backs her 100 percent, and that she can stick with the case or opt for another patient, no questions asked. Given the choice of working with a clear racist or a family that would appreciate her, I'm betting Battle would have appreciated her boss having her back ... and asked for a transfer herself.
Simply showing your employees they are valued goes a long, long way, even in health care.
Because a hospital is like any other business. The customers may be the reason the business exists, but without the employees, you can't serve the customers.
What do you think the hospital should have done in this situation? Is there any perfect answer?
Image via Frenkieb/Flickr