Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

Nurse Whistleblowers

I hear frequently of nurses who complain about conduct that they feel is unethical or improper that could affect patient care. As nurses, we are first and foremost patient advocates. We are concerned about our patients getting top quality care. Yet our concerns often fall on deaf ears or worse, they face retaliation. We want to report concerns when a facility is short-staffed, practitioners do not respond to phone calls or proper care is not provided.

A nurse whistleblower is one who goes to a state or federal agency to report a facility’s misconduct after their complaints were not addressed by the facility or the “the public exposure of organizational wrongdoing.” Many nurses believe being a whistleblower is complaining to your facility. This is not true.

Fortunately, nurse whistleblowers may be protected from retaliation by both state and federal laws depending on what is reported. And nurse.org has put together a list of every state and the laws that protect you in each one and here is another one.

There is a federal Whistleblower Protection Act which protects federal employees from retaliation from disclosing information that violates laws regulations mismanagement, rules, waste of funds, abuse of authority and endangering public health and safety. However, this law protects only federal employees, not those working in private institutions or state facilities

There is also the National Labor Relations Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act and False Claims Act which protect employees who submit complaints in hope of improving working conditions

However, state law may better protect you. For example, Indiana nurses are protected by the Indiana False Claims and Whistleblower Protection Act, the Indiana Medicaid False Claims and Protection Act and Indiana Code 22-5-3-3 which protects Indiana employees from retaliation for filing a complaint, testifying, or assisting with an investigation against an employer in the state.

Whistleblower retaliation can take the form of termination, demotion, denying a promotion, denying benefits, denying overtime, failing to hire, pay cuts, reduction of hours, intimidation or harassment and other disciplinary actions.

What bothers me most is why would a nurse continue to work in a place that doesn’t provide proper care?

If you feel that the care provided to your patients is compromised based on poor staffing, poor care of coworkers, lack of physician or NP availability, why would you stay there? Sometimes the grass may be greener on the other side.

Even though the law protects you, finding an attorney to assist you can be expensive and time consuming. And, even if you win the battle, you may not win the war. What I mean by that is that if your position is reinstated, you will be walking on the proverbial “eggshells” and the facility likely will find another reason to terminate you.

When you are scared and have been disciplined or questioned about something, it’s natural to be super careful but that can lead to mistakes

I think the only way to improve care in this country is to, yes, be a whistleblower but then leave if you have not left already and don’t rely on the laws to protect you.

Go somewhere you can work within the standards that you want which provides safe patient care.

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