ISAPN on the Betty Wattenbarger and Alexus Dockins tragedies
On December 17, 2020, WGN America published a story detailing the tragic deaths of two youths, Betty Wattenbarger and Alexus Dockins. The story links these tragic deaths and a lack of transparency into who was providing care; in each case, that care provider was an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
The Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing represents the interests of the 17,000+ APRNs, of which 13,244 are nurse practitioners, in the state of Illinois. As such, we urge the media and the public not to exploit the tragic deaths, and therefore lives, of these two bright young souls. The deaths of Betty Wattenbarger and Alexus Dockins were tragedies.
A recent study by John Hopkins School of Medicine found that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. These errors are made across the health care spectrum by a wide variety of providers—physicians, physicians assistants, pharmacists, and, yes, advanced practice registered nurses. Human beings make mistakes. And we at the Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing believe that when a healthcare provider causes an error that results in patient harm, they should face the consequences of those actions.
APRNs play a critical role in today’s rapidly changing health care system in a landscape where many areas are facing primary care provider shortages. It is critical in today’s hyper-polarized world, that we do not fan the fire of sensationalism— as was displayed in WGN America’s story. Drawing conclusions on the standard of care provided by all advanced practice registered nurses on the basis of two horrible tragedies could erode trust in these providers and ultimately have catastrophic consequences for our society.
The hearts of all of us at the Illinois Society for Advanced Practice Nursing go out to the families of Betty Wattenbarger and Alexus Dockins.