Should Nurses Blow the Whistle?
Jennifer LeClaire | Monster Contributing Writer
While this is certainly true, Wright advises nurses to understand the potential backlash before speaking out.
“You could be terminated, and even if you decide to file suit, it could be years before you get your job back — if you get your job back,” she says. “The statutes are normally very narrowly worded, and they vary from state to state. It’s not a decision that you should make lightly.”
More than 50 percent of workers who flagged incidents of unlawful conduct in 2002 were fired, according to a study by the National Whistleblower Center, a nonprofit educational advocacy organization dedicated to supporting employee whistleblowers. Many others said they faced unfair discipline.
The protections are limited even where a whistleblower statute is applicable, since statutes of limitation often force employees to learn of their rights and file a complaint within 30 days of being fired or disciplined.
Steve Lee, RN, says his career nose-dived after he blew the whistle on alleged unsafe practices at a Texas hospital. He has since launched Nurseprotect, a grassroots effort to support nurses who face retaliation for whistleblowing.
“Don’t blow the whistle unless you are willing to give up your career for it,” says Lee. “Whistleblower laws are symbolic and largely ineffective.”
While many agree with Lee, more nurses are finding protections and remedies under new state whistleblower laws, say experts, especially since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act came on the scene with federal provisions built in.