Employers Gone Bad: 10 Ways to Survive

  1. What would you do if you worked at a facility that was fined or charged with unethical, immoral, or illegal activities? You might not want to consider this, but it's a real threat to your license and career. Learn a few ways to protect yourself and survive.

    Employers Gone Bad: 10 Ways to Survive

    Hospitals and those who run them being fined or charged for unethical, immoral, or even illegal activities, seems to be a common occurrence these days. But, if this happens to your workplace, what can you do to protect your job, license, and even your sanity?

    The comments in this article are presented as opinion and not meant to be taken as legal advice. Please contact an attorney if you encounter situations such as those discussed in this article.

    Before we discuss a few tips, here are some recent stories that illustrate the hidden dangers many nurses face at work.

    Bad Business

    In an August article, Becker's Hospital Review reported that 13 hospitals in California were assessed fines over $1M each for patient safety issues. The issues ranged from not protecting patients against interpatient abuse, lack of physician coverage for on-call emergency situations, and malfunctioning machines just to name a few. In January, Advisory Board released a tool where you can see how hospitals across the country performed in the current pay-for-performance model implemented by Medicare. Many hospitals across the nation are fined for patient safety issues. And, San Jose Inside covered a developing story in their city that described how one facility and a nurse manager were under investigation for improper employee and patient practices related to multiple types of discriminatory practices.

    No matter what your personal beliefs are on this touchy subject, you might someday find yourself standing face-to-face in a similar predicament and not know which way to turn. Here are a few ways you protect yourself from bad bosses and employers.

    Do Your Homework

    Before you accept a new job, be sure that you gather all of the information you need about the potential employer. Ask others who work about the culture, hiring practices, and management team. Do a little investigative work to see how much they paid in fines or if there is any current litigation against the hospital.

    Gather Facts

    If you start noticing illegal or unethical behavior, make sure you get the facts. Don't accuse anyone of anything until you know if there really is an ethical or legal issue at play. Research the laws, regulations, or rules who think are being broken. Talk to other employees, whom you trust, to see if anyone else is feeling uncomfortable about the situation.

    Know When to Report

    If you witness a co-worker, manager, or even the hospital as a whole does something illegal - you need to report it. This can be a very tricky situation for you. Without reporting, nothing will ever be resolved, but just proceed with caution. If you don't know who to report an incident to, use the chain of command for guidance. Always start with the person closest to you on the chain of command and then escalate as needed until you get a resolution.

    Don't Count on Whistleblower Protection

    You might think you're protected if you come forward to report something illegal. And, while that might be true - it certainly doesn't mean that life won't be downright miserable at work for a while. You could be the victim of retaliation that ultimately causes you to lose your job anyway. Or, others may make you so miserable, that you just decide to walk away for something new without all the baggage.

    Be Smart

    If you start down the path of reporting any issues, put it in writing. Verbal conversations can be misinterpreted or even lied about later. But, a paper or email trail can help you prove the actions you took to report the situation. If all correspondence is through company-owned email, print out a copy for yourself and keep it at home. Don't forward the communication to a personal email, since this could be against company policy.

    You also want to make sure that all verbal conversations you have about a controversial topic are witnessed by a neutral party. If you're not sure who this might be - talk to someone in human resources for guidance.

    Stick to Your Values

    When you know something is wrong - well, you just know. And, if you keep your mouth shut, you will probably feel as though you are part of the problem. In these situations, stick to your values and follow your gut instincts.

    Don't Act out of Emotion

    The last thing to do is act when you are emotional, exhausted, or angry. While this might be when you have the most gumption behind you to tell a coworker you're tired of them lying about something, it's likely not going to end well.

    So, if you witness a questionable event, take a step back and regroup. If you still feel the same after you've thought about the situation for a few hours or even a day or two, go ahead with speaking to someone in a position of authority about your concerns.

    Secure Patient Safety

    If you are witness to something that is an unsafe situation - you might not be able to wait to act. You are going to have to follow your gut and trust that when the "you know what" hits the fan, your ethics are firmly intact and will guide you through difficult situations.

    Seek Counsel

    If the situation around becomes one that you are not sure how best to proceed, seek out the professional advice of an attorney. Find one the specializes in the issues at hand, such as employment law or healthcare law. If the problems at your facility run deep, you're going to need a trusted person who understands your rights on your side.

    Move On If Needed

    If you raise your concerns to the appropriate people and nothing is done, it might be time to look for a new job. This is always a tricky situation because your boss may not give you a good reference if they aren't happy with you - but at some point, you will find something new even without their support.

    Have you ever witnessed an unsafe, immoral, or unethical act that you had to speak up about? How did it end? Would you handle the situation the same or different in the future?
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  3. by   middleagednurse
    It's about time someone addressed this all too common problem. Good article.
  4. by   melissa.mills1117
    Thanks, middleagednurse!
  5. by   TX.RN.Shannon
    It happens in other settings besides hospitals, of course. But this had lots of good information.
    I recently was placed in a difficult situation similar to what you mentioned above.
  6. by   Daisy Joyce
    I got hired per diem by an agency that was in deep doo-doo with Medicare over billing for stuff they didn't actually do.
    The events occurred in another state from me.
    But the company was cracking down and punishing us by piling on the paperwork and Heaven help you if all your i's weren't dotted and your t's crossed. As in, they called me in on my day off because two of my literally hundreds of papers I submitted after a flu clinic were missing my initials in one block on one of the forms.
    So I went in and put my wee initials on them.