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I reported my clinical instructor for threatening behavior and now I feel I am being discriminated against for speaking up. What can I do?

Friday April 12, 2013
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Dear Donna,

I am a senior nursing student who reported my clinical instructor for her threatening behavior toward me and for a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act violation concerning a fellow student. In the month following my report, my instructor issued me multiple written academic warnings and noted an incident of an unacceptable practice. The nursing dean threatened me with expulsion, banned me from returning to my clinical assignment and said I will receive a failing grade in my lecture and lab classes. The dean advised me not to seek further clinical experience at the facility I was assigned to and where I had been planning to apply for employment. My lab classmates have ostracized me — several nursing faculty who had previously helped me have stopped talking to me or advised me they are not allowed to talk to me for fear of repercussions.

I am a mature student in my 50s and my academic record includes commendations from all previous nursing clinical instructors. I believe I have been discriminated against for speaking up and am afraid to continue at this school. However, I cannot start over at another school due to financial and time constraints.

Nursing is my passion, but I am being worn down by this treatment. I've come too far to let go of my dream. What can I do to find my way through this?

Threatened Student

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Threatened Student,

If you believe you are being discriminated against or punished as retaliation and your education is being jeopardized, I recommend you find a nurse attorney and discuss your situation. A nurse attorney is uniquely qualified to help with issues that relate to nursing and the law. Find a nurse attorney through referral from your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (www.nursingworld.org) or The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (www.taana.org). It will help to have a professional advise and support you as well as advocate for you and take whatever action, if any, may be warranted.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.