The emotional sequelae of whistleblowing: Findings from a qualitative study

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2011, 20 (19-20), pp. 2907 - 2914
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To highlight and illuminate the emotional sequelae of whistleblowing from whistleblowers and subjects of whistleblowing complaints. Background. Whistleblowing has the potential to have a negative impact on individuals' physical and emotional well-being. However, few empirical studies have been conducted using qualitative methods to provide an in-depth exploration of the emotional consequences for those involved in whistleblowing incidents. Design. Qualitative narrative inquiry design. Method. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants who had been involved in whistleblowing incidents. During interviews participants' accounts were digitally recorded and then transcribed verbatim. Data were then analysed by two researchers until consensus was reached. Results. Findings revealed that participants' emotional health was considerably compromised as a result of the whistleblowing incident. Analysis of the data revealed the following dominant themes: 'I felt sad and depressed': overwhelming and persistent distress; 'I was having panic attacks and hyperventilating': acute anxiety; and, 'I had all this playing on my mind': nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts. Conclusions. While it has been previously acknowledged that whistleblowing has the potential to have a negative impact on all aspects of an individual's life, this study notably highlights the intensity of emotional symptoms suffered by participants as well as the extended duration of time these symptoms were apparent. Relevance to clinical practice. As professionals, nurses, as well as organisations, have a responsibility to identify those who may be suffering the emotional trauma of whistleblowing and ensure they have access to appropriate resources. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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