Avoid legal battles: Don't punish nurses who speak up

Hospitals can protect themselves from legal action simply by listening to nurses who speak up about patient safety problems and then correcting the problems instead of covering them up, according to a Medscape article that examines two legal cases involving nurses who were fired after reporting concerns about patient safety.

Both nurses won their cases, providing a valuable lesson for hospitals trying to reduce costs by "targeting older nurses and those who speak up for patient safety," according to the article. Court costs combined with any damages awarded in the event of a loss for the hospital often wipe out any funds saved on salaries, the article said. Additionally, the article noted, "it is damaging to staff morale when colleagues must resort to suing their employers over patient safety issues or discrimination."

When nurses are cited for infractions, supervisors must have a paper trail to document any subsequent termination, the article noted. Staff numbers can be reduced as long as separations aren't based on age, gender, racial identity or retaliation, according to Medscape.

As for nurses, the article suggests consulting a lawyer before reporting a patient safety issue, and researching a nurse's responsibility to report patient safety issues in his or her state. It also suggests taking performance evaluations seriously and working to improve performance if any problem areas are identified.

To learn more:
- read the article