Simmering Discontent?

By John Kauchick, RN BSN

(EDITOR’S COMMENT: Is our discontent merely simmering, as an elite member of our profession writes below, or is it boiling over? You decide! Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Here is the story of one nurse’s attempt to bring the subject of wrongful termination and employer accountability for same to the awareness of major nursing organizations in the United States.)

This past year has been called “the year of ethics.” I decided to see how serious various professional nursing organizations and ethics institutes were going to put words into action.

From August of 2014 through May of 2015 I wrote to the elite experts within and outside these organizations. None responded. The common thread to not getting responses seemed to be my mention of wrongful termination.

A few weeks ago, I tried writing again with the preface that, considering the paper trail of unanswered emails, the recipients failing to to respond will be subject to answering questions as to why they didn’t respond. Finally, one top nursing ethics expert responded:

“Thanks for your information. Wrongful termination is a legal concept. Some of what you express is ethical behavior that perhaps underlies these issues. — continues to move forward and look at ethical climate where nurses work. This was a focus of —.

Our — addresses many of these issues and I encourage you to work to incorporate the — into the evaluation processes at your hospital.

We will continue to discuss the ethical environment where nurses work, but although you express a simmering discontent very little of that discontent ends in legal action.

I hope you will continue to dialog with us and others … as we continue to work toward a more ethical climate in nursing.”

Since it appeared I was invited to “continue the dialogue,” I responded. Those emails were never answered!

In my emails, I raised concerns that the cancer of wrongful termination had spread to the nursing schools and, furthermore, that it was having a devastating effect on future nurse/patient advocates.

I asked why national nursing organizations not supporting the spread of the Safe Harbor law to states other than Texas.

I said there was a lack of courageous leadership. I asked for defamation and wrongful termination to be added to the agenda at future conferences or national nursing organizations.

I asked that they send a strong signal to hospitals that there will be no tolerance for defamation and wrongful termination. I asked that it be clear that offenders would be subject to accountability.

Let none of us be fooled! The purveyors of injustice and misconduct are protected by inaction and silence.

“Those who stand for nothing, fall for anything.” ——Alexander Hamilton 1778



8 thoughts on “Simmering Discontent?

  1. My thoughts on the responses are that the expert went to the extreme to minimize the extent to which nurses are retaliated against by saying that legal actions are few. My response to that is that front line nurses can not afford the legal cost so the numbers are a skewed statistic. Many on these blogs have described personal experiences. With the exception of the Winkler case in Texas, can anyone give examples where nursing professional organizations provided sizable legal aid?


  2. John, I agree completely. That was my first impression when I read the letter. Do national nursing organizations really believe that nurses don’t take action when they are retaliated against and wrongfully terminated? Are they truly that out of touch? As your wrote, most nurses are unable to pursue legal action because they can’t afford the attorneys’ retainer fees. I have long dreamed of a national legal defense program that includes not only funding but also referrals to attorneys who are willing to work with nurses for decreased fees or pro bono.


  3. I have advocated for a legal defense fund for years. It will have to happen outside the professional organizations. They are not going to give the front line the ability to defend themselves from the wrongful actions of many who are members of the same organizations. In other words, we will continue to see the words but they will not be followed with action. They are too intertwined with the powers that they should seek to hold accountable. As a result the front line will continue be silent and patients will continue to suffer. Its only going to get worse as baby boomers retire and the younger bail out of the profession due to the work environment. Which has been designed for efficiency, not safety.How do you change what was designed by Wall Street? Only the media will effect change or the patients themselves. Usually they are afraid to talk. If they complain they fear they will be punished by poorer care. What a sad system we have that nurses tell family and friends to avoid going to the hospital. And those that propose to represent us have been bought.


  4. I’ve been pondering this essay for a week now. I’ve been an RN for 35 years. Have absolutely loved the profession, but I also love challenges… Even though I’ve been tested, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
    I’ve watched, and continue to watch the profession itself and those outside of the profession, colleagues and clients, as they try to define what a ‘good’ RN is. I’ve never heard a perfect answer. It seems to be like the story of the blind men as they ‘define’ an elephant. Personally, I think of Chief Justice Stuart Potter who in the early ‘60’s, during the Supreme Court’s efforts to define pornography, frustratingly uttered the now famous line “I shall not today attempt further to define (pornography)…, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”. All of us who have been in nursing, even for a short time, appreciate this sentiment. We know it when we see it.
    On to my point. One of the attributes to admire in a ‘good’ nurse is that of being able to ‘think outside the box’ i.e. challenging ‘tradition’ or ‘common knowledge’. I thought of this as I kept passing over the word “Whistleblower”.
    The word is such a trigger-word. In this culture it certainly has a negative connotation, especially in the corporate arena. Pondering the word AND my profession I couldn’t get away from the idea that one of the larger aspects of the normal part of my job is that of whistleblower. I’m supposed to always be watching out for variances in the way care is being delivered to my patient(s). My state (all states?) actually mandate my being a whistleblower if I find a non-patient child, or an elderly person being mistreated. I can lose my license and be held criminally liable if I’m NOT a whistleblower! We’re good at many areas of our practice because we had good role models and mentors showing us how to do it and supporting our actions; we need equally good leaders in our professional organizations supporting us when we try to expose a practice that’s not in the best interest of our patients or the profession. It’s a serious blow to the profession of nursing when the exposure has to come from the popular press because our members have found only silent and scared ‘leaders’. I hope that when any of us is called a ‘whistleblower’ we can smile and say ‘Thank-you’.


  5. If you prefer not to expand on what you have written, do I have your permission to post your words above as an article on GuerrillaNurse? I will use your name or, if you wish, I can post the article anonymously. _Melissa Brown


  6. John you are absolutely right, we need a legal fund to take the state all the way. they have too much power and the taxpayers have absolutely no idea this power struggle is going on. !! What state are you in?


    1. I mostly practice in Texas. I have worked in AZ so I know firsthand the retaliation cartel. Even though Texas has whistleblower and safe harbor laws the due process favors the hospitals. The state also is very pro business with shield laws. You better be squeaky clean and well funded to win, here or anywhere for that matter.


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