What is whistleblowing? #

An individual who discloses information, either internally (e.g., manager, compliance officer, hotline) or externally (e.g., regulatory agencies, media, lawmakers, watch dog organizations) that he/she reasonably believes evidences a violation of a law, rule or regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

A whistleblower is:

  • Often a current/former worker with credible information about wrongdoing/illegality witnessed on the job.
  • Someone who discloses issues that require change to comply with law or to protect public interest.


Whistleblowing is a serious and often complex matter. Make sure that you know the facts before acting.

Best practices for healthcare organizations #

Report suspected violations or wrongdoing internally

  • Contact the Compliance Office, the safety/compliance hotline, or use chain of command. This is consistent with advice provided by the Office of Inspector General, Department of Justice, and U.S. Sentencing Commission.
  • Seek to resolve issues internally before involving a government agency to oversee the process.
  • Support an organizational culture of transparency and continuous improvement. Workers have an important role in ensuring safe/quality care and a duty to report suspected wrongdoing/ violations.
  • EXCEPTION: Securities law violations - Anti-Retaliation Protections only extend to workers who have reported securities law violations externally to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Be alert for practices/documents appearing to block workers from reporting violations externally

Organizational Compliance/Human Resources documents should not limit the worker’s ability to:

  • File charges/complaints with any federal, state, or local governmental agency or commission.
  • Limit the worker’s right to communicate with any government agency or participate in any investigation or proceeding that such an agency may conduct.
  • A healthcare organization’s code of conduct, compliance policies and compliance training should promote internal communication and specify that workers have a duty and right to report wrongdoing and legal violations (without retribution or retaliation).

Considerations for healthcare whistleblowing #

If an illegal or unethical practice is identified, reserve judgment until adequate documentation is collected

  • Individual(s) engaged in unethical or illegal conduct will not welcome inquiry into their practice.
  • Collect data to substantiate the claim; remember that you are not protected from retaliation in a whistle-blower situation until you blow the whistle.
  • Blowing the whistle means that you report your concern(s) to the national and/or state agency responsible for regulation of the organization for which you work; criminal activity includes reports to law enforcement agencies.
  • Reporting recommendations: put complaint(s) in writing; document objectively; retain documentation of events, including all interactions related to the whistle-blowing situation.

Before you report

  • Seek counsel of someone you trust outside of the situation to provide an objective perspective.
  • Consult with WSNA or legal counsel, if possible, before acting to determine how best to document/communicate concern(s).

From ANA: Things to Know About Whistleblowing

    WSNA staff contact