Nursing

Web site spotlight: Nurses associations look for new protections, federal laws to protect nurse whistleblowers

Nurse Leader Insider, March 29, 2010

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The quick acquittal in February 2010 of Texas whistleblower Anne Mitchell, RN, has nursing organizations relieved, but also pressing ahead with remedies to prevent a similar case. Mitchell faced trial for "the misuse of information" after anonymously reporting a physician to the Texas Medical Board in April 2009.

Alice Bodley, general counsel for the American Nurses Association, says only 22 states have whistleblower protections "specifically geared toward healthcare workers."

"We would want to see established in every state to the extent possible a federal law, with very strong prohibitions against retaliation for whistleblowers. That is not only in the nurses' interest, but the patients' as well," Bodley says.

She says it might be time to extend federal whistleblower protections to healthcare professionals who identify not just financial irregularities but also unsafe healthcare practices related to Medicare or Medicaid.

"There are protections for disclosure of violations of Medicare laws, qui tam protections, but they are generally not designed to get to the question of professional practice. It's more financial in terms of Medicare payments," she says. "CMS and the federal government are now moving toward quality measurements through the federal reimbursement system, and this is definitely something we can look at."

Editor’s note: To read the rest of this article, visit “Nurses associations look for new protections, federal laws to protect nurse whistleblowersfound in the Reading Room at www.StrategiesForNurseManagers.com.

 

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