Greater support is needed to tackle the serious emotional consequences of whistleblowing, according to researchers.
Whistleblowing incidents can have a serious, long-term impact on a nurse’s emotional wellbeing, according to an Australian study in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.
Researchers carried out in-depth interviews with 14 nurses who had experience of being a whistleblower or had been a bystander in a whistleblowing incident.
Alcohol problems, nightmares, paranoid behaviour at work and overwhelming distress were some of the problems reported by those who took part in the study.
Lead author Kath Peters, from the school of nursing and midwifery at the University of Western Sydney, said: “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.
“By its very nature it may lead organisations to adopt a defensive stance to protect their own interests and cast those who blow the whistle as troublemakers. This can generate a hostile work environment and even lead to victimisation, ostracism, exclusionary behaviour, hostility and bullying,” she said.
Despite their findings, the authors stressed the important role that whistleblowing has played in improvements in healthcare safety and quality, and called on colleagues and managers to provide whistleblowers with more support.
Study co-author Debra Jackson, from the faculty of nursing at Sydney’s University of Technology, said: “Managers have a significant responsibility to provide ongoing care and support for both whistleblowing employees and those affected by whistleblowing events. Nursing colleagues also need to be vigilant and direct people affected to appropriate resources.”