Should Nurses Blow the Whistle?
Jennifer LeClaire | Monster Contributing Writer
With the various corporate scandals of recent years, we’ve seen plenty of headlines about whistleblowers in the business world. Now, the nursing industry is bringing us its own front-page cases that could see more medical watchdogs come to the fore.
Legal experts say the number of whistleblower cases in the healthcare field has been on the rise since 1999, when the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies reported that medical errors are the nation’s leading cause of death and injury.
“Nurses are becoming more vocal about concerns that healthcare organizations are using unlicensed assistant personnel and not employing enough nurses on a shift,” says attorney LaTonia Denise Wright, RN, of the Healthcare Risk Aversion Group in Cincinnati. “This is a real concern, because these practices lead to medical errors.”
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Nurses Speak Out
Nurses are also blowing the whistle on questionable practices. Cindy Moore, RN, got vocal about the way Florida’s Duval County Health Department diagnosed people with sexually transmitted diseases. She complained that health officials were not notifying infected people in a timely manner and was subsequently fired for her accusations.
Likewise, Stephanie Hohman, RN, blew the whistle on the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) emergency room when she became concerned about patients’ rights and possible abuse. Hohman was also fired. And psychiatric nurse Stacie Neldaughter, RN, was fired after reporting alleged misuse of shock therapy treatment at a Wisconsin hospital.
Despite the career risks, healthcare attorneys say nurses have a responsibility to blow the whistle on such activity.
“Everyone has a moral obligation to blow the whistle on unsafe practices,” says attorney Joanne Sheehan of Friedman, Newman, Levy, Sheehan and Carolan in Fairfield, Connecticut. “A nurse may be disciplined by the state licensing board for participating in unsafe practices that can harm patients.”