Free Speech, Jobs and Nurses

The case is now being decided by a federal appeals court, but raises the question of whether nurses and health care workers should be held to a higher standard than other workers.

via The Policeman vs. the Nurse – NYTimes.com.

The simple break down is this:  nurse gets speeding ticket, is pissed off and this  “I hope you are not ever my patient,” she reportedly told him., ” happens.  Cop gets mad, complains to her work, nurses loses job and ends up suing everyone.  Yeah, so simple.

Is it?

First, why did the police officer go running to her employer like a tattle-tale?  Was he truly threatened by her actions?  Was he directly threatened by her actions?  He went running because he seemingly felt that his position of authority, his power, was occluded and obscured, that this nurse (female to boot) was daring to speak her mind.  That’s at least what one can infer from the information that is available.  The truth may be different.

Second, was the intent of the nurse to threaten?  Who knows?  It’s not reported how the cop treated her, how her day had treated her, if this was a pattern of harassment or just a sotto voce expression of displeasure on her part.  I truly doubt that if the policeman ended up on her unit she would do anything but give excellent care.   Call me naive but I don’t think that a speeding ticket is the ticket to substandard care.  I’d like to think that nurses are not that petty.

But this incident has opened a huge can of worms.  Are nurses and other health care workers held to a higher standard?  Does our right to free speech disappear because we’re in health care?  If that is the case, pack up the blogs, log off of Twitter, burn the notebooks and stop expressing yourself.  It’s a slippery slope.  I say things regularly that  can be construed in a different manner than I intended.  I could see myself in the same situation as this nurse, mostly because often the filter between my brain and mouth isn’t in perfect shape.  For better or worse I tend to speak my mind, much to the chagrin of my wife.  But I’m working on re-building the filter.

So if we’re held to higher standard, what’s next?  Garbage men can mutter, “we’ll see if I pick up your trash next week” and get fired.  They’re public servants too.  Or docs saying, “You’re getting a prostate exam next time”.   It can get ridiculous quickly.  Why should then nurses and other health care workers be held to any higher status?  Because we’re visible?  Because we’re supposed to be above all that?  Or as per an editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette, we’re  “a person of impeccable character whom the community could trust to help anyone in need of cardiac care.” Right, I forgot when I earned that RN after my name I gave up right to opinion and bad judgment, especially in  public, off work, on my own time.

The more pressing question is why did the policeman go to her work and complain depriving thus her of work?  I’m sure that’s the nicest insult he has heard.  No references to farm animals, musings on his mother’s questionable background or his sexual orientation.  Just a cursory hope from her.  To me it is a hope that she never has to see him again, deal with him again, not inflict harm and withhold care.  Overreact much?  C’mon, grow some thicker skin.

Was it unwise of the nurse to say something?  Yeah, probably not the best idea, but we’re human.  We make human mistakes, say human things and have bad days like anyone else.  If you haven’t ever said something you regretted for one reason or another you’re F.O.S.  We all do it.  Sure it is probably different situations, than with a cop at your window, but we all make those mistakes.  Unfortunately for this nurse the mistaken slip of the tongue cost her a job and will shadow her for a long time afterward.  Was she wrong?  In a way.  But the officer was more wrong in taking it out on her livelihood.  That’s the part that is truly wrong.

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One Comment

  1. It’s a good point.

    In my opinion, cops should be held to a higher standard as well. What he did is dangerously close to oppression by a public official.

    Reply

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