Nashville, Tennessee, reporter Travis Loller elevated coverage of a nurse’s trial by reporting the larger implications of the woman’s conviction for accidentally administering the wrong medication to a patient who subsequently died.
Other news outlets focused their coverage solely on the trial of RaDonda Vaught, on trial for giving a patient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center a medication that proved fatal, but Loller realized the case’s potential impact on health care workers and how they respond to mistakes.
While juggling trial coverage, Loller’s further reporting found that Vaught’s prosecution touched a nerve. Experts told her that pursuing the case against Vaught could backfire, leading doctors and nurses who make mistakes to cover them up. They also told her about “Just Culture,” a movement within the health care field to learn from such mistakes and make systemic improvements.
As the trial ended with Vaught's conviction, Loller obtained an interview with her and learned new details, exclusive to AP, about the nightmare Vaught had experienced since her mistake. It turned out Vaught lived in the same small town near Nashville as the 75-year-old woman who had died. Vaught shared a poignant story about a chance encounter in a store there that gave Loller the perfect ending for her evocative, beautifully written story, grounded in solid reporting.
Loller’s enterprising story clearly resonated with readers in a way the spot trial coverage could not, leading AP in pageviews for the day and scoring perfect reader engagement.