by Sam Beardsley, RN 11/27/15
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, both 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 actually mandates 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!