Christann Gainey, LPN Criminal Charges


Christann Gainey, LPN was caring for Herbert R. McMaster SR., an 84 year old Resident of Cathedral Village senior living facility in Philadelphia in April 2018. He suffered a fall, hit his head, and died hours later due to a brain bleed. This was the Resident’s fifth fall in four days. Gainey was a staffing agency nurse on duty the night of McMaster’s death. Per facility policy- she was to perform neurological and vital sign checks periodically. Gainey pleaded guilty to falsifying records to show she had done the neuro checks. Video footage showed that Gainey was not near McMaster’s at the documented time of the neurological checks. During this shift, Gainey was caring for 39 residents. Thirty nine people. McMaster’s was found dead around 7:15 am. Per report, CPR was not started and the patient did not have a documented code status.

Plea Deal

Gainey took a please deal and plead guilty to misdemeanor neglect of a care-dependent person and tampering with records. She was sentenced to six months house arrest followed by four years of probation. She is barred from reinstatement of her license or working in a care facility during this time. 


The concerns are much the same that we saw in the RaDonda Vaught Criminal Trial. Criminalizing nurses for errors is a very dangerous precedent to set and it rightfully has nurses concerned. We already are used as hospital scape goats, and now there is legal precedent that medication errors and system failures are not only the nurses fault, but that the nurse is criminally liable as well. An innocent mistake and a system that sets you up for failure- can land you in jail. For simply trying to do your job. Nurses go into this field to help people. Except for the very, very few nurses who intentionally kill patients (think Dr. Death status), mistakes should NOT land you in jail.

There is also a great concern with this case that the facility is in no way being held responsible (again, like the Vaught criminal trial). The product of a failed system is being placed on one single nurse. It’s a disgrace and yet again another very sad day for the nursing profession. The nurse was caring for THIRTY NINE residents. Neurological checks per this facilities protocol would be almost impossible at hospital’s 1:5 patient ratio. 1:39 is absolutely impossible. The resident (in my opinion) should have been sent to the hospital for a head CT and close observation. There was no policy stating this, and the on call provider did not order this when they finally returned the nurses call 2 hours later. There were multiple failures here.

I have a lot to share and say about long term care facilities and how grossly understaffed they are. I worked as an LPN for four years in long term care (and also as a CNA) so I have personal experience in this. I know how the system sets you up for failure. I have felt the intense stress of caring for to many patients with little to no help. And working for administrators who to put it bluntly- do not care about you.

I will be sharing more in a blog post in the next few days, but I am sending Nurse Gainey love. And I hope she knows this was the result of a failed system, not her alone.

What are your thoughts on this case? Have you ever work long term care?



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2 thoughts on “Christann Gainey, LPN Criminal Charges”


Falsifying records is not a ‘mistake’, it is fraud. It is not a med error, so not directly comparable to Radonda Vaught’s case. Were nurse-patient ratios inappropriate? Based on personal experience in rehab settings, yes. I’ve had worse ratios at state MH hospitals, but never in gero settings. It is incumbent on each nurse to guard their license. If you feel like your license is in danger at a facility due to unsafe conditions or staffing practices, please don’t endanger yourself, commit a crime, or be a party to unsafe conditions, just quit. And report it if the violations are reportable. There are so many facilities that SHOULD be subject to prosecution, but in our overworked and underfunded system organizations are often able to evade consequences. Its not an easy problem to solve, but requires public and political action. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to refuse to work at such facilities, and hope that the staffing issues will become too severe for them to remain in operation.

It seems common for prosecutors to file scary felony charges to get defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges, but that isn’t specific to nursing. The ethics of it is its own debate. There’s no way of telling whether charges of manslaughter or homicide would have stuck, but my hope is that a rational jury would not have found her guilty of the greater charges, or that they would have been reversed on appeal. We will never know the answer to that however.

Also a little concerned that an LPN was doing assessments with no supervision, but I don’t know what scope of practice LPNs are granted under Penn law.

My Experience Working in Long-Term Care as a Nurse | Peace Love and Nursing

[…] The Christann Gainey, LPN case has a lot of people talking, like all the sad and scary charges against nurses right now. I am hearing a lot of nurses placing the sole blame on the nurse for falsifying records. And I agree- that is not something nurses should do. But what they don’t understand, is the impossible situation that working in a long term care facility puts you in as a nurse or CNA. Hospitals are understaffed and in crisis, but long term care has been that way for a long, long time. […]

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