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.


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).


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

    Washington State Department of Health (WA DOH) #


    • Health profes­sional complaints.
    • Health facility complaints.
    Contact information


    Whistleblower protections

    RCW 43.70.075 – A whistle­blower who complains, in good faith, to the depart­ment of health about the improper quality of care by a health care provider, or in a health care facility, as defined in *RCW 43.72.010, or who submits a notifi­ca­tion or report of an adverse event or an incident, in good faith, to the depart­ment of health under RCW 70.56.020or to the indepen­dent entity under RCW 70.56.040, shall remain confidential.

    Washington State Department of Labor and Industries


    • Worker in immediate danger.
    • Safety and health concerns (workplace).
    Contact information
    Whistleblower protections

    RCW 51.48.025 – An employee may not be discharged (or discrim­i­nated against) in retal­i­a­tion for filing (or commu­ni­cating an intent to file) a workers’ compen­sa­tion claim.

    Washington State Medicaid Fraud Control Division #


    • Medicaid fraud, waste, abuse.
    • Resident abuse/​neglect in Medicaid funded nursing homes, adult family homes, boarding homes.
    Contact information

    (360) 586‑8888

    Office of Attorney General
    Medicaid Fraud Control Division
    PO Box 40114
    Olympia, WA 98504

    Whistleblower protections

    Refer to RCW 43.70.075 including RCW 4.24.500 and 4.24.520.

    The Joint Commission (TJC)


    • Patient, staff, family safety concerns.
    Contact information

    The Office of Quality and Patient Safety
    The Joint Commis­sion
    One Renais­sance Boule­vard
    Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois 60181

    Fax: (630) 792‑5636

    Whistleblower protections

    Joint Commis­sion (and the National Committee for Quality Assur­ance) are private organi­za­tions and do not confer whistle­blower protections.