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What Should We Do?: Should I tattle?

by Dennis Ernst • August 09, 2017

Dear Center for Phlebotomy Education,

You have one chance orI play by the rules, but not everyone here is as cautious against needlesticks as I am. I often see coworkers breaking off the safety feature from their needles, ripping the tip off their gloves, and other dangerous practices. I usually look the other way, but it’s bothering my conscience more and more. Last week I saw the lead phlebotomist tear off the fingertip of her glove. I am not a tattler, but I know this isn’t right or safe. Should I suffer in silence or speak up and risk losing my job?

Our response: For some, this is a tough call; for others it’s a no-brainer. We side with the latter.

We feel strongly that every safety infraction should be reported. If the immediate supervisor is unsympathetic, go up the chain until you find someone of authority who has the courage to enforce policies. If you lose your job, at least you can sleep at night knowing you’ve heightened awareness of serious safety practices that can cost lives. Or you can look at it from the opposite perspective. What if you keep quiet and someone accidentally sticks themselves with a contaminated needle after removing the safety feature? How will you feel when you find out he/she acquired hepatitis or HIV? Pretty terrible, we’re sure. Either way, whether you report violations or not, it’s going to be hard. If you choose to report it, you will likely incur the wrath of your coworkers and/or supervisor, yet it could save a life; if you choose not to, no one will rise up against you, but your conscience could haunt you. 

Here’s the thing: being terminated for reporting unlawful behaviors is illegal; working in a hostile environment is also a labor law violation. If you feel either is possible, you’re probably not a good fit with your employer and vice versa. Ultimately, your job satisfaction will head south for other or additional reasons, so you might as well do what your heart is telling you to do and report it. It’s the right thing to do. (The right thing is usually the harder option; that’s how you can tell.)

Take the high road and see what happens. You might just start a chain of events that changes the culture of safety where you work. Remember these words often attributed to Andrew Jackson: “One man with courage makes a majority.” 

Answers just ahead signGot a challenging phlebotomy situation or work-related question? Email us your submission at [email protected] and you just might see it as a future case study. (Names and identifiers will be removed to assure anonymity.)  


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