Whistleblowing incidents can have a serious, long-term impact on people's emotional well-being and their colleagues and employers have a responsibility to provide them with the support they need, according to a study in the October issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing.
Australian researchers carried out in-depth interviews with whistleblowers and nurses who had been reported by whistleblowers.
Alcohol problems, nightmares, paranoid behaviour at work and overwhelming distress were just some of the problems reported by the nurses who took part in the study. All were female and they had between two and 40 years of nursing experience.
The team behind the study have extensive experience of whistleblowing issues, having published research into the reasons for whistleblowing, effects on relationships with colleagues, experiences of confidentiality and organisational wrongdoing.
"We already knew from previous research that whistleblowing had a negative impact on all aspects of an individual's life, but this study highlights how intense and long-lasting the emotional problems can be" says lead author and nurse researcher Dr Kath Peters from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Western Sydney.
"The nurses we spoke to talked about overwhelming and persistent distress, acute anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts."
The authors point out that nurses who blow the whistle may be unprepared for the effect it will have on their personal, physical, emotional and professional well-being. However, they also stress the important role that whistleblowing has played in large-scale inquiries that have led to improvements in healthcare safety and quality.
"Whistleblowing is an issue for all sectors, not just the medical profession" says Dr Peters. "By its very nature it may lead organisations to adopt a defensive stance to protect their own interests and cast those who blo
|Contact: Annette Whibley|