February 24, 2010 | | Comments 1
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Nurses now aim to improve protection for nurse whistleblowers

Earlier this month, Anne Mitchell, a former administrative nurse at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit, TX, was accused and eventually acquitted  for the “misuse of official information.” If she had been convicted, she would have faced 10 years in prison for reporting Rolando G. Arafiles Jr., MD, to hospital officials.

Mitchell’s acquittal has nurse associations breathing a sigh of relief, but also has associations looking to the future on how to prevent similar cases from happening.

In addition to Texas, only 19 other states have whistleblower protection laws that pertain specifically to healthcare workers in that state. Even though Mitchell should have been protected under these laws, the prosecutors found a loophole in the system. The prosecutor knew the “misuse of official information” only applies to public services, and because Winkler County Memorial Hospital is a public hospital, and Mitchell a county employee, they could accuse her of such allegations.

In a statement to HealthLeaders Media, Alice Bodley, general counsel for the American Nurses Association believes it is time nurses “approach the issue from every possible vantage point.”

Even though most states have whistleblower protection laws, they vary from state to state. Bodley says because of the difference between states, “it would be great if we can obtain a national law that would protect whistleblowers who come forward to disclose poor quality healthcare in connection with Medicare issues.”

Do you agree with Bodley? Do you think it is time for a national law to protect whistleblowers? What kind of protection does your facility offer its staff if a similar case presents itself?

Source: HealthLeaders Media

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Sarah Kearns About the Author: Sarah is an Editorial Assistant in the patient safety group at HCPro, Inc. She contributes to two monthly newsletters; Briefings on the Joint Commission and Briefings on Patient Safety, and manages four e-zines; Accreditation Connection, AHAP Staff Challenge, Nurse Manager Weekly, and Healthcare Training Weekly. She also helps research new products for the patient safety and nursing market. She graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2008 where she earned her bachelor's degree in English.

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  1. Rant begin.

    NEVER have I been rewarded in my nursing “career”? by management for doing a good job; for stating the truth; for patient advocacy; or for reporting an injustice or illegal activity in any hospital–in fact, the opposite is true– and a swift reprimand in the form of a “write-up” for insolency after tearfully defending oneself in the manager’s office was chronically the result.

    Satisfying the bottom line is so bloody important to corporate because they are slaves to the almighty dollar, that the “higher-ups” who do nothing but shine their seats with their arses and lick the butt-ends of their masters, would sooner behead a nurse than defend and keep her. And no medical doctor would ever defend a nurse in court to save her house, career, or her reputation.

    I have been “encouraged” to leave a few nursing jobs–yes, for me it is a job, not a career–for reporting the following moral and/or ethical offenses throughout my fifteen year sojourn: a doctor who pinched my rump and fondled my breasts while i was giving care to a comatose patient; for exposing subordinates who want me to do their work for them–yes, if you are an aide,lvn, or housekeeper you ARE my subordinate and had BETTER do my bidding!– (my manager had the audacity to complain to me “but they make so much less money than you do”); employees stealing narcs; doctors screwing nurses on campus;– and I once was forced to resign from a STELLAR, if not legendary, eight-year charge nurse position because a doctor demanded my immediate expulsion after I informed the family that said doctor was in at 3 am to see the patient. (MD was avoiding the family during the day by doing rounds in the middle of the night, which frosted the hind-ends of the family members), and of course, who gets blamed and has to lose her job for it–the NURSE. BTW, my nurse manager refused me to have a lawyer present in the meeting with the MD and human resources,– and my union rep who was present was incapable of helping me(the union dues i pay are useless). I had to leave all my benefits after the nuckle-heads told me to go to behavioral health for a psych eval to keep my job–I laughed all the way out of the building!!

    Why must we be martyred? I wish i hadn’t signed up for this, but i do have a cumbersome mortgage, a beautiful fourteen year old who, by God if it kills me, will stay in her private school; and a husband who cannot work outside the home because his mother lives with us and has dementia and can never be left alone. Only death can save me now.

    Rant over.

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