The beliefs of nurses who were involved in a whistleblowing event


Sally McDonald, Royal Perth Hospital, Wellington Street, Level 8, Perth 6000, Western Australia, Australia. E-mail:


The beliefs of nurses who were involved in a whistleblowing event

Background. Nursing codes of ethics bind nurses to the role of patient advocate and compel them to take action when the rights or safety of a patient are jeopardized. Reporting misconduct is known as whistleblowing and studies indicate that there are personal and professional risks involved in blowing the whistle.

Aim. The aim of this study was to explore the beliefs of nurses who wrestled with this ethical dilemma.

Design. A descriptive survey design was used to examine the beliefs of nurses in Western Australia who reported misconduct (whistleblowers) and of those who did not report misconduct (nonwhistleblowers).

Methods. The instrument listed statements from current ethical codes, statements from traditional views on nursing and statements of beliefs related to the participant's whistleblowing experience. Respondents were asked to rate each item on a five-point Likert format which ranged from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Data were analysed using a Pearson's correlation matrix and one-way ANOVA. To further explore the data, a factor analysis was run with varimax rotation.

Results. Results indicated that whistleblowers supported the beliefs inherent in patient advocacy, while nonwhistleblowers retained a belief in the traditional role of nursing. Participants who reported misconduct (whistleblowers) supported the belief that nurses were primarily responsible to the patient and should protect a patient from incompetent or unethical people. Participants who did not report misconduct (nonwhistleblowers) supported the belief that nurses are obligated to follow a physician's order at all times and that nurses are equally responsible to the patient, the physician and the employer.

Conclusion. These findings indicate that nurses may respond to ethical dilemmas based on different belief systems.