from Walker Circuit Court (CV-15-900137)
Alabama State Personnel Board ("the Board") appeals
from a judgment of the Walker Circuit Court ("the
circuit court") reversing an order of the Board that had
upheld the dismissal of Sherryl Palmore from her employment
with the Alabama Department of Public Health
("DPH"). We reverse and remand.
and Procedural History
September 2014, DPH sent Palmore, who was employed by DPH as
a staff nurse in Walker County, a "Notice of
Pretermination Conference" notifying her that her
supervisors had recommended that she be dismissed from her
employment with DPH because, her supervisors said, on July 7,
2014, she had not taken the blood pressure of a patient
("the patient") or calculated the patient's
body mass index ("BMI") before giving the patient
an intramuscular injection ("the injection");
because, her supervisors said, she had not properly recorded
the patient's blood pressure and BMI in the patient's
chart when she saw the patient; and because, her supervisors
said, she had subsequently entered false blood-pressure and
BMI information in the patient's chart. On October 8,
2014, DPH held a pretermination conference at which Palmore
was afforded the opportunity to respond to the charges and to
present evidence in opposition to the charges. On October 15,
2014, DPH sent Palmore a letter notifying her that her
employment as a staff nurse with DPH would be terminated at
the close of business on October 16, 2014.
Palmore timely appealed to the Board. Her appeal was assigned
to an administrative-law judge ("the ALJ"), who
conducted a de novo hearing. On January 1, 2015, the ALJ sent
the Board a recommended order in which he recommended that
the Board uphold Palmore's dismissal. In his recommended
order, the ALJ made the following findings of fact:
"Having reviewed the documentary evidence, having heard
the witnesses' testimony, having observed the
witnesses' demeanor, and assessed their credibility, the
undersigned finds the greater weight of the evidence supports
the following findings of fact:
"C. Facts Forming the Basis of Dismissal
"Palmore has been a Registered Nurse ('RN')
since 1999. Palmore had prior experience working as a Staff
Nurse at Cooper Green Hospital (1994-1999); Birmingham
Veterans Administration Hospital (1991-1993); and Baptist
Medical Center-Princeton (1990-1991).
"Palmore taught nursing classes for Fortis, a
proprietary School of Nursing in 2014, during her employment
at DPH Walker County. Palmore also taught nursing at Bevill
State Community College ('Bevill') during 2011, while
employed by DPH at the [Walker County Health Department]
Clinic [('the Clinic')].
"Palmore's lateral transfer from case management to
providing direct patient care at the Clinic was accompanied
by training and orientation in the health care modules
utilized by the Clinic. From October 2013 until February
2014, Palmore had written protocol materials and preceptor
oversight in transitioning into her clinical role. Palmore
insists that her training was inadequate and that her
guidance by preceptors was compromised by the retirements of
two of her preceptors. Her third preceptor, Karla Legg
('Legg'), was present at the Clinic from the time of
Palmore's clinical activities in October 2013 until the
termination of her employment in [October] 2014. Legg
provided direct preceptor guidance to Palmore from March 2014
until July 2014. DPH provided training and then retraining to
Palmore when she expressed her discomfort over the training
DPH had given her. Nurse Educator Marilyn Knight and Dr. John
Hankins ('Dr. Hankins') responded to Parmore by
having her retrained in the extant modules.
"Dr. Hankins testified that an RN, by virtue of the
training required to achieve that designation, should be
competent to follow protocols and to recognize the critical
importance of accurate documentation in a patient's
"Considering her lengthy experience as an RN and her
teaching of nursing at Fortis and Bevill, one could expect
that Palmore could accurately take vital signs and properly
record them in a patient's chart. With written protocols
to guide her activities at the Clinic, one could expect that
a nurse with Palmore's experience could deliver nursing
services consistent with established protocols.
"Palmore failed to follow the DPH written protocols in
providing services to patients. When Palmore failed to give
hemoglobin tests to five [Women Infants and Children Program
('WIC')] patients at the Clinic in March 2014, Dr.
Hankins ordered that Palmore be retrained in various modules.
Palmore acknowledged her mistake with the WIC patients.
Palmore said she could not remember all the protocols.
Palmore was removed from providing clinical services to WIC
patients in March 2014. Palmore received training in
providing WIC services to ...