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What recourse does an RN have who feels he/she is being bullied by a manager after pointing out possible HIPAA violations made by other RNs?

Thursday April 24, 2014
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Question:

Dear Donna,

I need advice on how to deal with a manager who is trying to fire me. It started a few months ago, I reported to my manager that a new nurse was in a chart of a patient that she didn't belong in. When I asked the nurse why she was in the chart, she said she's known him for years. I mentioned she was not caring for him so I didn’t think she should be in his chart. She continued to do so, so I sent a message to the manager that this nurse might need some education on HIPAA and I explained the situation. Then the new nurse put on social media that the guy was in ICU on a vent. So I sent another message to the manager telling her she might need education on what not to put on social media. My manager has now labeled me a bully and said I intimidate new nurses.

I was notified by another coworker that the manager told the new nurse it was me who reported the information. My manager also told me my coworkers refused to do my peer evaluations but did not notify me of this during my evaluation in February. My manager just wrote me up for cursing in the nurses station two months ago. She couldn't produce an exact date, and I don't recall doing it.

Because I had a few absences last year, I can't change floors. I feel like I'm being bullied by my manager. Aren't nurses required to report HIPAA violations? I need advice on what to do. I've been a nurse for seven years and have never encountered this type of situation before.

Feels Bullied

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Feels Bullied,

It is always challenging for me to respond to this type of question without knowing all the details and the players. Without knowing all that, and based only on what you have stated above, I can only offer the following advice:

1. Sometimes it's not what you say but how you say it. Reporting that you saw something inappropriate on social media is one thing but telling your manager how to handle it is another. Leave it up to her/him to investigate and deal with (if at all).

2. Choose your battles. If it appears to your manager and peers that you are regularly reporting people for various things, both on and off the job, others may pull away from you. Try to make a distinction between what is most serious and what may be petty. If you complain/report all the time, people stop listening or putting stock in your words, even if you have something legitimate to report.

3. Rather than looking to others to blame for your current work situation (either your coworkers or manager), take a look at yourself and your own behavior/communication style. Ask yourself what you might have done differently to alienate your co-workers and manager. Your behavior, not your manager's or your co-workers', is what you can control. Consider sitting down with your manager and asking for specific advice and feedback on what you can do differently when you have concerns about someone else's actions as well as how you might improve your overall communication style. This is never easy to do but can demonstrate to your manager that you are open to improvement. It is a great opportunity for greater self-awareness and growth in all aspects of your life.

4. Find a trusted coworker or friend who knows you well to have a frank conversation about all that has transpired to help you gain perspective and decide on an appropriate course of action.

I'm not suggesting anything you reported shouldn't have been reported. I am suggesting that you step back and take a look at your part in creating the hostile situation you find yourself in.

Every workplace should have written policies in place against harassment. If you truly believe you are being harassed or your employee rights have been violated, then report it to human sources after discussing this possible action with a trusted friend or family member. It is not a step to take lightly. Whatever you do, don't act in anger, even when you have good reason to be angry.

Best wishes,
Donna


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://www. Nurse.com/Events.