As members of a professional workforce, it is easy to assume that everyone in our profession works to the same standards at all times, and that we are all working in environments where relevant guidelines are strictly followed.
After all, the safety and wellbeing of the patients is something we always strive to achieve, and clearly that should be the goal of anyone in the industry we come across. To be in a position where we are questioning a work colleague’s professional conduct is something that none of us like to think about, but unfortunately for some it can be a reality. The main thing is that we all need to know what to do if this situation should arise.
As a nurse, if you felt there was reason to report a work colleague, the first port of call should be the practice manager. All good managers should be maintaining a working environment “... where staff can raise concerns openly and without fear of reprisal” (General Dental Council Standards for the Dental Team, Standard 8.3). But if you didn’t feel comfortable approaching a member of your team, or if it was actually the practice manager in question, who should you turn to?
Many would feel that suggesting that a colleague is doing something ‘wrong’ could lead to you feeling isolated at work, ‘upsetting’ your colleagues, or worse, losing your job. But the reality is that all practices should have not only a complaints procedure in place to protect patients, but also an effective procedure for raising concerns amongst staff that allows concerns to be treated fairly and professionally with minimal stress for those who have brought them to light.
Our registration with the GDC makes them our obvious choice for seeking professional advice. Their Standards for the Dental Team document highlights the importance of acting on any concerns, and indicates that this must be done to benefit not just your patients but the whole dental system. The GDC’s website is a useful tool for obtaining information on whistleblowing, and provides useful links on what you should do. The website states:
“A key element of this is ensuring that there is a shared culture of openness and honesty in which the raising of concerns is welcomed, staff raising a concern are listened to and where it is clear that the concern will be acted upon. When this works, it is to the benefit of patients, colleagues and the health system itself” (http://www.gdcuk.org/Dentalprofessionals/Fitnesstopractise/Pages/Advice-on-raising-concerns).
From the 30th September this year, the GDC have teamed up with ‘Public Concern at Work’, a charity that provides ‘free, confidential advice’ for working people. Together they have created a helpline for all dental professionals. This means that there should never be any reason for simply keeping quiet, as you can call them anonymously and be guaranteed to get the best information on how to handle your concerns.
After all, ‘whistleblowing’ is not something that should be considered a malicious or petty act; it means you are upholding your duties as a responsible professional, and protecting both your own integrity and the safety of your patients.