I wish I had a nickel for every nurse, therapist or other hospital or healthcare worker who wanted to tell me — on the QT — stories that would make your toes curl. I’m a magnet for those stories; as if sharing them with me takes a load off their minds. I think they think I’ll use them to somehow protect future patients.
Yes, I live in New York State, but I hear these stories from healthcare workers all over the country. When I ask why they don’t report the problems, often they tell me they are afraid for their jobs. Seems many have watched others who have been jettisoned after an attempt to correct the ills of their employers.
As reported by the AP, and the Rocky Mountain News last week, Colorado’s governor just signed a new law that would allow nurses and others to blow the whistle on healthcare wrongdoing without fear of job loss retribution. Included is a task force that will review staffing levels since understaffing may be at the root of many of the safety problems.
Patients in Colorado will benefit because the nurses and other staff are truly at the heart of patient care. They are the ones who see the problems, whether they are individual safety questions or facility-wide process problems. And now they are in a position to affect positive changes in those facilities.
But what about those of us who don’t live in Colorado? What happens if a healthcare worker sees a problem and wants to report it? Will s/he get fired?
Or are there other states with whistle-blower protection laws in healthcare?
I did a search to see what I could find. It seems Massachusetts passed a law to protect healthcare whistle blowers in 1999. California seems to offer some protection. I found a few references to New York, Missouri, Vermont and a few others, but I could find no master list of states where healthcare workers are allowed to step up to the patient protection plate to speak their peace and save those who they must care for. If you have a list, will you send it to me?
No doubt there are two sides to this story. But the bottom line must be patient safety and in order to make hospitals and other facilities the safest they can be, those on the front lines, including doctors, must know their jobs are safe, and feel encouraged to speak up when they see problems.
Lives depend on it.
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