Nurses, How Much Faith Do You Have in the Whistle Blower Protection Law?
a succinct instruction on what to do if one finds something at work that should be reported
- Is the Problem that The Posters Are TOO BIG?
- The Federal Law May or May NOT Protect Nurses
- The real problem lies with each individual nurse.
- So, Now what?
- Correct. Everything you write, type, whisper…belongs to the FACILITY
- It is not necessary to be all things to all people.
Is the Problem that The Posters Are TOO BIG?
Is the difficulty with the small print too much to take in during your harried and hurried fifteen minute break?
On the other hand, is it that there are so many small tasks involved in your nursing day?
That reporting bad or unethical physicians practice just too much for you to handle on an empty stomach?
It is OK. ALL the nurses in the world...well, at least in these United States,
Well, At LEAST on THIS side of the Mississippi...oh all right at least this nurse agrees
Whomever you find is repeatedly doing an action that can cause harm to a patient should be reported.
Or at the least, made aware of the fact that their actions are edging on the other side of
FIRST, DO NO HARM.
Just be SURE you are following all the STEPS of reporting
Correctly and IN ORDER!
The Federal Law May or May NOT Protect Nurses
There is an event occurring in a rural area of Texas that has the American Nurses Association and many nurses countrywide in arms and in force. It may be too little, too late for the unfortunate nurses who were on the compliance board of their rural hospital where they had worked for a cumulative 47 years. The even involves a physician who was hired by the hospital with a less than perfect record...but who is perfect after all? It also involves two nurses whose job, until they were fired in June of 2009, it was to research as many in active and inactive charts as their hospital nursing policies dictated. They had been nurses at this hospital for many years. Doubtless, they found this job to be rewarding and interesting as well as insightful.
As any quality assurance or performance improvement or peer review or chart-auditing nurse will tell you; it is a thankless job. It is also an eye opener. If you have the opportunity to be thoroughly oriented and properly trained with an excellent preceptor, you may, just may, survive the first year without being harassed, targeted, manipulated or bribed by a multitude of healthcare professionals.. If not, if you go in there with an idealistic view of making sure the patient has been given the proper treatment with the best outcome...you could find yourself in the same situation as these two nurses from a small rural hospital in Texas have found themselves.
The real problem lies with each individual nurse.
Do you, as nurses, know what the federal whistleblower act says and whom it protects? The poster is up in every break room and every nurses kitchenette behind the nurses desk…it makes it look as if, should you feel anyone…even a kiss their hem physician…can be reported and whoever does the reporting will be protected. All nurses are taught this now, have been taught this for years.
Well, this is an OLD nurse. Moreover, a nurse whose fathers first masters degree was in law. My Dad said, “Read the fine print.”
The answer is in the title…The FEDERAL Whistleblower Protection Act protects FEDERAL employees.
As the definition in Wikipedia states:
Under most U.S. federal whistleblower statutes, in order to be considered a whistleblower, the federal employee must have reason to believe his or her employer has violated some law, rule or regulation; testify or commence a legal proceeding on the legally protected matter; or refuse to violate the law.
That does not give those of us NOT considered government employees much reason to believe there will not be some reprisal of some kind. I mean, nurses, dude, let’s face it, how many times have you seen someone thrown under the bus for reporting something that all of knew was wrong? How many of us, as nurses, have shut up immediately! For fear of any the backwash landing on our shoes? How many of us have instantly gone over all our nurses notes that we could even think might be reviewed if someone reported a wrongdoing?
Have any of you ever been the victim of a reprisal because you reported something unethical, harmful, illegal, or unsafe?
If you have been a nurse for over two decades, I would hazard the answer, the truthful answer to be way up there in the nineteenth percentile.
In the case of the nurses in this rural area of Texas, the unbelievable answer may be that not only are they not federal employees but that the legal system itself is already set against them. The article states:
“When the medical board notified Dr. Arafiles of the anonymous complaint, he protested to his friend, the Winkler County sheriff, that he was being harassed. The sheriff, an admiring patient who credits the doctor with saving him after a heart attack, obtained a search warrant to seize the two nurses’ work computers and found the letter.”
The nurses are not of course being charged with misuse of the federal whistleblower act, nor are they being charged with slander or libel…well almost…their charge is of a third degree felony nature…that of making inflammatory remarks against an upstanding citizen of the community.
So, Now what?
This nurse feels it is imperative to make every healthcare worker and especially nurses aware that because as nurses we operate under our OWN license which makes us that much more culpable to reprisal if we are not thoroughly informed and educated on every aspect of the law, the hospital policies and procedures as well as all the network that MUST be gone though if we suspect ANYONE of ANY wrongdoing.
This education protects EVERYONE.
Every facility has a ladder of who you report what to and when and where and what form to put it on and how to write it up and who helps you file it and whose signature goes where and so on. The one thing that shocked me was the nurse’s computers.
Please, nurses, this is the twenty-first century. Your computer at home isn’t even protected…and I know you signed a paper at orientation and probably every year reminding you that everything from emails to patient records to your own excel spreadsheets on your work computer belongs to…let us say it together…THE FACILITY!
Correct. Everything you write, type, whisper…belongs to the FACILITY
In fact, most facilities have banned the use of thumbnails, travel drives, the what-u-call-it’s that go into the USP thing-a-ma-givey on the computers tower. Now what do you suppose they wanted to go and do that for? You think it’s for the Health Insurance Protection and Portability Act don’t you? Well, you are correct…but that is also a two edged sword…uh, sorry…street. It protects privacy all right. It did not protect the nurse’s privacy did it?
I realize this is a very inflammatory subject and I realize it is one that could become the focus of many negative comments. I do not intend to pass any judgment or to frighten nurses into never addressing a wrongful act. As nurses, it is ALWAYS our responsibility to protect the safety of our patients and the integrity of our nursing profession.
All I want you, as nurses, to realize is that you MUST follow ALL the steps set forth by your facility and you absolutely must trust that the objective committee in charge of handling all the reports are doing their job, following the letter of the law and the facilities policies and procedures. That is what they are there for and that is their job. Do NOT take on all the dragons alone.
It is not necessary to be all things to all people.
Leave it to the professional code of ethics to guide your heart of course, but leave it to the committee in your individual facility to follow up on any and all reports of wrongdoing that you as nurses see.
Yes, the American Nurses Association is there for us. Yes, every nurse is behind one another because as nurses, we have the patient’s best interest at heart.
Yes, your facility has to have a committee in place to oversee and act upon any and all reports of any kind in order to be reimbursed by Medicare.
And after you have filed your report then what? Keep on doing your job as a professional nurse to the best of your ability and do not let it become an obsession. If you do, this nurse promises you, it will consume you, it will defeat you, and you will not see justice, you will only see the worst-case scenario in everything you touch.
Let it go. File it with the next step up on the ladder and let it go. Keep your mouth shut and your mirror clear. You do what you must, so you can look in your mirror every morning and face no demons in your sleep every night.
And it never hurts to say a prayer for each other every morning on the way to work and every night before we go to sleep. A nurses prayer, one to another, that we are united in our mission to help our patients achieve the well-being they deserve and that it is our philosophy to maintain the highest standard of nursing as we practice our art of nursing every day.