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Can you lose a job for addressing malpractice and patient safety?

Perhaps you are a physician’s assistant working at a small family practice office. The physician who runs the practice is your employer, and you suspect that they have been coming to work under the influence of drugs or alcohol sporadically. Maybe you work at a large corporate hospital and noticed that cost-cutting measures related to staffing or supplies have had adverse impacts on the patients.

When you believe that the facility or professional that employs you has violated the law or best practices in the medical industry, you may feel compelled to draw attention to the issue. As someone who has likely invested years into developing a medical career, you don’t want to lose your job or face employer retaliation for doing what is right.

Will you have to worry about getting fired if you report that drunk doctor or those unsafe practices?

Whistleblower protections apply to medical professionals

Whether you are a surgeon, a phlebotomist or a janitor who simply sees something unsafe happening, you have whistleblower protection if you report a safety concern. Whether you report the issue internally via human resources or you involve an outside regulatory agency, your decision to address your concerns should not negatively affect your employment in any way.

Whistleblowers have absolute protection from retaliation, which may include termination, transfers to other departments, demotions and reductions in wages or hours scheduled to work. Of course, you will have to assert those protections if your employer tries to punish you.

How do you protect yourself if you want to act as a whistleblower?

The first and most important step toward protecting yourself as a whistleblower is to document the issues that you want to report. There are many businesses that will intentionally cover up misconduct by altering internal records or even destroying evidence so that employees or patients cannot hold them accountable later.

Understanding how to safely and legally document medical issues may require guidance from an attorney. Partnering with an attorney is generally advisable for those planning to serve as whistleblowers, as they will need to understand the law and communicate effectively with their employer and possibly regulatory agencies.

Finally, you need to document your interactions with your employer and what behaviors you think may constitute retaliation. That way, if the company does take punitive actions against you for speaking up, you will be in a position to show that you were a whistleblower and that their actions were retaliation.

Learning more about whistleblower protections can help you speak up for the safety of your patients or your coworkers in a medical environment.