Kentucky health care workers are hardworking, dedicated and vigilant people. They do their jobs knowing how difficult and emotionally wrenching it can be, but focus on patient care and helping in any way they can. A fundamental aspect of that is protecting patients from unsafe conditions and other dangers that lurk in hospitals, medical centers and areas where patients are cared for. Since failures in adhering to the legal standards for patient safety can cause worsened conditions, injuries and death, health care professionals are obligated to speak out. Unfortunately, this can lead to an adverse employment response. Knowing about their rights as employees and how they are protected if this occurs is imperative to do their job without fear of repercussions while shielding their patients.
Health care workers’ responsibility is to their patients
Being sanctioned by their employers for doing their jobs and adhering to their responsibilities should not happen, but it does. This can give them pause and force them to consider the consequences before reporting risks large and small. The past two-plus years have highlighted how health care workers are key components to society. With the health challenges, there has been a notable uptick in stress, guilt, worry and trauma among health care workers across the nation. This is true regardless of their area of concentration. Being unable to help patients who are in desperate need of it is one concern. Fear as to how to adhere to the proper standard of care when there is interference from the facility itself is another.
A study from the Journal of General Internal Medicine says mental health has been directly impacted in a negative way from how workers were forced to handle ill and dying patients to knowing what they should do if they spot a failure on the part of their facility to live up to the rules of safety. The stresses are comparable to those experienced by people who have been at war. Their moral compass was a primary obstacle as they felt ashamed and guilty that they needed to make decisions that were not in their patients’ best interests. Making that trade-off while thinking about how people might be simply ignoring basics for patient safety and how their job status could be damaged by that is adding to their feelings of negativity and uncertainty of what to do.
The law protects health care workers who report safety issues
According to state law, if a health care worker believes there is a problem with the quality of care at their facility and patients are jeopardized because of it, they must report it. Those in charge must investigate the claim and act accordingly. If the health care worker who reported the problem is confronted with reprisal, threats, discouragement, an attempt to dissuade them from reporting or initiating any other form of employment-related intimidation, they are supposed to be protected under the law. Still, many employers might indulge in this in various ways.
Heroic health care workers doing their duty have employment rights
Often, employers will put financial interests ahead of doing what is right. That can leave the middlepersons – in this case health care workers – caught between what their employer wants and what is good for their patients. The dual-edged sword is difficult as people need their jobs and income, but they know their patients might be placed in danger by the questionable actions of the facility.
Health care workers perform a heroic service that is underappreciated. As the recent events have shown, they place themselves at the forefront every day in serving their patients. When there is a gap between safety and what the employer wants, it can cause employment law challenges. These include being sanctioned, demoted, facing shift changes, losing hours, being accused of wrongdoing and being terminated. When there is this type of behavior, health care workers should know their rights and stand up to what their employer is trying to do. Consulting with legal professionals can help with them being protected and holding employers accountable.