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Who can I talk to when something goes wrong?


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Sometimes things just seem “hinky” (I learned this pop culture word from my children!). The Hinky Meter is our internal “something’s just not right” detector.

There are few things worse than the suspicion or realization that you have been singled out to be picked on by your colleagues, fellow professionals and even your manager. And the truly sorry part is that what you’re feeling is most likely correct. Where there’s smoke there is usually fire. Even people with whom you have worked and trusted will be reluctant to step up in your defense.

In most nurses’ experiences, it is NOT productive to go to a nurse manager, administrator or your employee assistance department. Why? Because they work in the same place that you do and are usually not inclined to rock the boat and take you seriously. These people also may very well be the abusers and would rather see you GONE than to investigate what is going on. They don’t want it known that there is discord in their unit because this messes up their climb to the top.

If a patient is in danger, you have a moral and professional responsibility to report the facts to agencies such as Medicare and the state licensing board(s) if your employer fails to investigate (after you have been through the “channels”). Patients and their families also have the right to report, and more of them are doing exactly that. Hospitals that receive federal funding are required to provide the national hotline number to all patients.

So where do I go? Who can I talk to?

You need someone who is outside of your institution and whose ethics demand the same secrecy as yours. Your family is not likely to understand. They just know that something is bothering you. A person who is NOT associated with your workplace is best, even if you have to go out of town to speak with them. Do you have a nurse friend who has no association with your employer but who has a very high degree of integrity? A doctor who can help you cope with the emotional toil? Just know – NO ONE should have to suffer alone!

Even a lawyer, especially one who is a former RN, would be ideal—if you need legal recourse, you already have an advocate in your court. In many larger cities there are law firms that take on pro bono cases and can present evidence of persecution, harassment or any other violation of a person’s civil rights.

Notice that I did not specifically list clergy members—they usually are not in a position to help you directly. However, if talking to a priest or minister who is also bound by the sanctity of the church (as in the confessional) gives you inner strength and hope, then by all means do so. In Alcoholics Anonymous there is a saying: “Let go and let God.”

This kind of mess HURTS, and hurts badly! It’s critical that you don’t allow what is going on in the workplace to destroy you as a person or as the fine, caring nurse that you have become!

Should I blog?

Sure? Just BE SURE you set up a private site which is password protected. Even with those precautions, remember that ANYTHING can be hacked! Do not trade relevant text messages on your cell phone for the same reason. Colleges and internet cafes are good places to go to do your blogging. Make sure you CLEAR the history on the computer when you leave.

It’s better to keep a handwritten journal of names, dates, times, events and other data at home. If you are reported to the state board (or worse, arrested) after following all of the steps to protect yourself, you will have a case and can get affidavits and depositions from the people who are already in your corner and who have their own records of your story.

Say or sign NOTHING except in the presence of your attorney no matter WHAT the state board or police tell you. Your license, name and address plus any actions taken against your license will stay on the board’s website FOR THE REST OF YOUR CAREER! Even when you have paid up on the charge(s), it will be there for anyone to view. Remember that YOU have rights! You do not give up these rights just because you go to work for someone.

Sounds like a bad spy novel!

Yes, it does. But remember that you are fighting not only for your job but also your license, career and reputation. The sad fact is, sometimes the people who are persecuting you do not care about anyone but themselves and will make up lies to get what THEY want–which is to get rid of YOU! Sometimes even good girls need to sue the bastards! You have the right to not be harassed at work.

Keep your head up and serve proudly. The best thought you can hold is the knowledge that you kept the faith (with the patients and with yourself!) and did the good work today as you travel home. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel!

Never to know that you are beaten is the way to victory. (Florence Nightingale).

Nurse Rene
Nurse Rene has been an RN since 1978; CCRN since 1989 and attained a BSN in 2010. She has worked in virtually every specialty from Neonatology to Neurosurgery and is a Member of Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society with a particular interest in helping students and new grads develop to their full potential. She's been married for 33 years and has a keen interest in history and in current issues as nursing continues to develop as a Real Profession. When not spoiling the grandchildren, she enjoys sewing, cooking, kayaking, camping and travel. She likes all music which does not hurt her ears, watching NCIS, Leverage, Top Gear and Criminal Minds and reads books written by Clive Cussler, Miss Manners, Erma Bombeck and Tom Clancy. She enjoys collecting Quotations for use in her writings.

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