Hepatitis Case Motivates Stronger Whistle Blower Protection - 8 News NOW

Melissa Duran, Reporter

Hepatitis Case Motivates Stronger Whistle Blower Protection

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Protect the patient -- it was and still is top priority for resident nurse Joan Wells. Protect the patient -- it was and still is top priority for resident nurse Joan Wells.

After learning several nurses and other staff failed to report unsafe injection practices at the Endoscopy Center that led to the hepatitis scare, lawmakers made the move to strengthen current laws that are supposed to protect whistleblowers.

One local nurse shares her story of why it's sometimes scary and hard to speak up.

Protect the patient -- it was and still is top priority for resident nurse Joan Wells. But she never thought she'd be punished for it.

"My reviews said I was an excellent nurse, but if I'm an excellent nurse -- how can I be fired?"

But Wells says she was fired from a Las Vegas hospital almost two years ago after blowing the whistle during contract negotiations on what she thought were unsafe practices going on inside.

"If you stand up and complain, you are seen as the bad apple, so all of the sudden you are just gone -- you are fired," said Wells.

Wells say it's a perfect example of why there needs to be better protection for nurses who notice patients are in harm's way.

"That fear of retaliation is part of the whistleblower law that needs to be strengthened so that people feel they can stand up and be the patient advocate they should be without being fearful of losing their job or being harassed on the job."

Lawmakers agree. After learning several nurses didn't report unsafe injection practices at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, lawmakers started to take a deeper look into what nurses need to feel protected.

Now, under new recommendations, they want to see tougher consequences for employers who retaliate against nurses who speak up, including giving the nurse the chance to sue for lost wages, attorney's fees and punitive damages.

Wells says this move gives her hope. "When employers cut corners, patients are put in harm's way. We are to do no harm."

She can only hope it gives other nurses the confidence they need to speak up.

These are just recommendations. Legislators will take it into consideration during next year's session.

Email your comments to Reporter Melissa Duran.
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