Whistleblowing: The risks of speaking up

whistleNursing and management are often at cross-purposes.  Where we see something as vital to the safety of our patients, management often sees it as an excess that the facility could do without.

Of course, when the stakes get really high, nurses can become whistleblowers.  This means that they call the higher authorities, get the public aware of the situation, and generally make it difficult for management to maintain their stance.

This does not come without risks, though.  In fact, a nurse in San Diego was fired over calling out her facility and their union blocking policies.

Whether you support unions or not, workers have a right to them, but this isn’t the only area that you could lose your job if you decide to turn whistleblower.  Reporting unsafe conditions, nursing understaffing, and abuse can find you in the hot seat when your employer turns against you.

Risks of Silence

You run a great deal of risk by staying silent when you see wrongdoing on the part of your facility.  At the very least, patients may be in danger due to bad policies, and this is reason enough to speak out.

Besides someone getting hurt, you could very easily lose your license if you are caught in a situation where you knowingly provide substandard care.  Agreeing to follow the policies with your silence will not make you less culpable when the patients are hurt.

You also run the risk of harming your integrity.  Many nurses are stringently concerned with patient safety, and you risk your own sense of pride in your work when you don’t speak out.

Perhaps this is why burnout is so prevalent among nurses?  We see things that we would speak out against, but we know that we are fighting an uphill battle.  That can diminish anyone’s enthusiasm for the work.

Risks of Speaking

As recent news has shown, you run the risk of losing your job if you speak out.  In addition, other facilities may not be interested in a nurse who makes a spectacle of themselves.

Speaking out can severely inhibit your ability to work as a nurse.  We’ve worked hard for these licenses, and to be potentially blackballed and kept from the job we love is enough of a detriment.

You also run the risk of your coworkers turning against you and basically standing alone.  It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that no one will support you in your whistleblowing or stand with you because the risks are too great.

Your family could also come under fire if the press gets hold of your story, the wrongdoing, and retaliation.  If you live in a small town, you may come under a microscope that is uncomfortable for any nurse just trying to protect patient lives.

Making Your Choice

The choice, as in most of nursing, is entirely in your hands.  I suppose it would depend on the type of corporate evil you are speaking out against to judge if it is worth the risk.

Sometimes, you have to choose your battles, and that may mean working in a place with less than acceptable policies.  It is when these policies cross the line into patient danger that a nurse must feel honor bound to speak out.

It doesn’t help to simply leave the facility.  The policies and procedures that are causing you trouble will still be in place, and patients will still be in danger.

Yet, you will put a tremendous amount of your personal life at stake if you step up, call management on their wrongdoing, and accept the role as a whistleblower.  Only you can determine if your particular situation is one that requires the fight, and sometimes fighting that fight is the only way you can live with yourself and nurse again.

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