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What can I expect now that I've taken an unfair nursing practices issue to others within the facility after my supervisor did not take any action?

Friday September 13, 2013
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Dear Nancy,

What happens when you are faced with making an ethical decision in the nursing field that involves unfair nursing practices where you are employed? I went to my supervisor with my concerns and she told me we should have one anotherís back.

I took the issue to social services and department of nursing and was labeled a whistleblower and was reprimanded. I felt I was simply looking out for
the elderly.

Meg



Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Meg,

Initially, it should be said that you were right in raising your concerns about the elderly patients you care for in the facility in which you work. Although you did not mention what "unfair nursing practices" you were concerned with, it is assumed they were serious enough to cause you to voice your concerns to the administration.

You also did not identify who was behind the reprimand, but regardless of who that person was, it should not have occurred. Voicing patient care concerns should be encouraged and those who practice unethically should be disciplined, including termination.

You should also know that "whistleblowing" usually occurs when one goes outside of a place of work and reports unethical or illegal practices to an outside agency (e.g., board of nursing, licensing body for the facility). Even so, you took a risk to express your concerns and this resulted in an adverse action (the reprimand).

It would be a good idea for you to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who works with employees and can discuss the protections you have under state, and perhaps federal, law when you attempt to rectify unethical practices and are disciplined for it. State laws vary in this regard, so the consultation would be important.

The consultation also is important because you may now become a target of further discipline, intolerable work conditions and/or false accusations about your practice. Unfortunately, when one speaks up about patient care issues, the agenda is to get the person out of the facility so that further concerns are no longer voiced, at least inside the facility.

Regards,
Nancy




Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.