Nurses on vaccines
Baker must pay student alleging she was told to scare patients into vaccinations
September 11, 2017 http://www.mlive.com
Nichole Rolfe, 35, of Henderson, Mich., on Thursday, April 9, 2015, at John's Coney Island in Flint. Rolfe is suing Baker College following her dismissal from the school's nursing program. She claims she was kicked out because she questioned instruction that encouraged students to lie to patients so they would agree to vaccination. Brittany Greeson | MLive.com
By Oona Goodin-Smith
FLINT, MI - A judge has ordered Baker College to pay a Shiawassee County woman's nursing school tuition after she claimed she was kicked out of the college's nursing program for questioning lessons she said encouraged students to lie to patients in order to vaccinate them.
Now, she wants up to an additional $2 million payout for the nursing career she'll never have.
On Tuesday, Sept. 5, Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph J. Farah signed off on a final judgment awarding Nichole Rolfe approximately $15,000 - the cost of her nursing school tuition - in a lawsuit against Baker College.
Farah ruled that the scope of damages done to Rolfe - who was dismissed from Baker's Owosso campus 20 weeks before she was set to graduate - was equal to that of her nursing school education.
However, Hemlock-based attorney Philip L. Ellison, who represents Rolfe in the suit, argues that the Shiawassee County woman should be paid in full for "the career she'll never have" due to being dismissed from the school.
"She deserves $2 million," Ellison said. "That's her lifetime earning loss for the career she'll never have because she was wrongfully dismissed. (Baker) doesn't get off that easy."
Ellison said he intends to appeal Farah's decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals in hopes of snagging the multi-million-dollar award for his client. If the court of appeals overturns Farah's ruling, the case would go to trial, Ellison said.
Ellison said that due to the judgment, which pays Rolfe $2,250 up front and holds $12,250 in order of the court, she is unable to fund attending another nursing program.
Rolfe - who is currently working in the medical field at Michigan State University - is stuck in a difficult situation after maxing out her federal loans to attend Baker College, who refuses to refund the ex-nursing student's tuition in full, Ellison said, calling Rolfe "one resilient woman."
However, attorney Michael Gildner, who represented Baker College in the lawsuit, said it was "important to keep in mind" that Rolfe is only receiving $2,250 up front. He said the woman would need to take many other steps in order to secure the full $15,000.
Gildner said the college is "very pleased with the settlement" and intends to pursue case evaluation sanctions in the matter.
Baker College instructor told students to threaten patients into vaccinations, lawsuit claims
Filed in April 2015, Rolfe's lawsuit claimed an instructor at the private school's Owosso campus told students to threaten and panic patients into immunizations.
"She stated that we would go in there if they declined and then we would use threats to coerce them," Rolfe said of the instructor's lesson. The threats could include, "You're going to lose your Medicaid and if you lose your Medicaid because you refuse the vaccine you will have to pay for your entire hospital stay," she previously told MLive-The Flint Journal.
The lesson, Rolfe claimed, came two days after another instructor told her that she had to tell potential new fathers that they were to be vaccinated against a number of diseases, including whooping cough, immediately before they could be allowed on the hospital floor with newborn babies.
The vaccinations would do little to protect the newborns because they would not have taken effect by the time the fathers interacted with the babies, Rolfe claimed.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone who comes in contact with newborns, including parents, be up-to-date on their vaccinations at least two weeks before coming in close contact with the infant.
Rolfe said she questioned both instructors, trying to understand the rationale behind the two lessons that she believed went against how they were previously taught to inform patients.
"I was asking questions that a nursing student should ask," Rolfe previously said.
But the school claimed that Rolfe was overly aggressive and disruptive and it was for that reason she was removed from the program.
A dismissal contract the school drafted, which was filed with the lawsuit as evidence, claimed that Rolfe continuously argued with the instructor about a personal belief regarding immunizations and that several attempts were made to move forward with training but Rolfe kept bringing up the same argument.
The contract also cited "persistent, aggressive, oppositional behavior" by Rolfe as a reason for dismissal.
Ellison said records show there was no investigation by Baker into the accusations against Rolfe before she was dismissed from the school.
Rolfe denied acting out while questioning the instructors, saying her questions sought clarification and were typical for a nursing class. She also denied she was against vaccinations or that she didn't want people inoculated.
"This goes against the patient's right to informed consent," Rolfe said. "Our job is to build trust with the family and patient. We are to educate this patient."
Her dismissal as a student came after Rolfe was placed on a June 10, 2013, behavior contract with the school due to an interaction with another student regarding a conversation about homosexuality.
Rolfe claimed that she told the student that it wasn't the place of potential nurses to judge others and that she disagreed with the other student's view that homosexuality is a learned behavior.
The student complained to the nursing program's directors, claiming she felt harassed by Rolfe for her stance on homosexuality, according to the lawsuit.
The behavior contract, which is also included in the lawsuit as evidence, claims Rolfe continued to make inappropriate, harassing comments toward another student.
Rolfe denied harassing the student.
"What's crazy about all this is, she's actually in favor of vaccinations," Ellison said. "She just didn't think lying to patients was appropriate."