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Sunday, September 22, 2019  

Speaking Your Mind:Safe or Suicide?Published 5/10/2004

Recently I heard about a nurse who during a closed meeting, expressed her feelings regarding a policy change at her facility. The CEO was present and stated that he wanted feedback and wanted staff to feel comfortable in expressing that feedback. The nurse, whose name will not be revealed to protect her privacy, stood up and expressed her distain for how the nurses were being treated. She was not disrespectful, but her comments obviously made the CEO very defensive. The meeting ended shortly thereafter. The nurse realizing that perhaps she offended the CEO made a point to approach him after the meeting and apologize for her comments, stating at no time was she attacking him, but was feeling frustrated and wanted her voice to be heard. He accepted her apology and they parted amicably.

Two months later, during this nurse’s probationary review, she was told that her probation would be extended for a year. Shocked, the nurse queried her boss, "why is my probationary period being extended when I have received outstanding evaluations, have never had any problems in my unit, never missed a day of work, and am generally easy-going and kind?" Her boss, appearing very uncomfortable, stated that the CEO was concerned that she (the nurse) would represent the hospital in a negative way and he wanted more time to determine if he wanted her on as a permanent employee

I was very saddened when I heard about this story. I have always operative under the guises of being open, honest, and fair with others. I believe it is better to be overt rather than covert and to deal with issues as they come up rather than attempting to deal with issues after they have become monumental. We live in a country that operates on a crisis intervention mode. If we can avoid a conflict we do so at any cost. The irony in this philosophy is that avoidance doesn’t end conflict but merely postpones it.

People are walking around deaf, dumb, and blind to what is going on around them. We are numb, thoughtless, and inconsiderate of others. Just the other day I got a phone call from a nurse that I used to work with, not to say hi, but to pick my brain about my education. The more I thought about this nurse the more I realized that the only time I did ever hear from her was when she wanted something from me. That saddened me as I thought we were friends, but I finally had to come to the conclusion that was not what this lady wanted from me.

Let’s get back to the story of the nurse above. Now you might be saying to yourself, "well she (the nurse) probably deserved it." "Perhaps she was rude, or obnoxious, and heck, she was on probation, and should have kept her mouth shut." Hmmm, if you really feel this way then that saddens me too as I don’t believe anyone deserves bad things to happen to them. What if she didn’t use the greatest judgment in expressing herself? Did she deserve to have her probation extended based on one incident? She was a good nurse, good colleague, cared about her patients. Did the CEO have to be so punitive? Was he trying to control her? Make her subservient? What was he really saying when he told the audience "you can be honest?"v

What do you think? Do you believe this nurse got the short end of the stick? Do we have the right to express ourselves or not? Do you have a similar story to share? Then do it here, in my column, In the News.

Dr. Linda Mundorff is the Director of Health Career Programs at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood Colorado and the author of Medical Terminology: A Student Workbook, and Memories of My Sister: Dealing With Sudden Death. You can email your comments to

Dr. Linda Mundorff RN, MPH, MSN, ND
Dr. Linda Mundorff RN, MPH, MSN, ND

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