The Importance of Speaking up and Addressing Issues

The Importance of Speaking up and Addressing Issues

Clinicians and support staff at treatment facilities are responsible for speaking up and addressing issues impacting client or worker safety. Most individuals in healthcare are mandated reporters who must contact law enforcement or other agencies if they notice something affecting the safety of individuals or the community. According to the Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians Open, "Reporting laws that currently exist in the United States are written to protect individuals and the public." Driftwood Recovery understands the importance of speaking up to management, coworkers, and even law enforcement when necessary to protect the safety of clients and staff members.

Clinicians Are Mandatory Reporters

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other clinicians are mandatory reporters and must inform law enforcement if they believe a person presents a danger to themselves or others. Studies have shown that "mandatory reporting laws establish a legally enforceable duty for those who have contact with vulnerable populations to report to state and local authorities when mistreatment or abuse of those populations is suspected or confirmed." Clients in treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) may hesitate to build trust with the care team if they worry about revealing potentially illegal activities. The care team is critical in creating a supportive environment while ensuring that clients, their loved ones, and staff remain safe.

Some people have a higher risk of experiencing abuse. The vulnerable individuals covered under most mandatory reporting laws include:

  • Children
  • Elderly
  • Disabled individuals

Staff members in healthcare settings are legally required to make reports if they feel someone is in danger or has been abused. The specific laws vary from state to state, and the clinician must remain current on the latest mandatory reporting regulations. Driftwood Recovery educates all staff members on the importance of following local and federal laws. In addition, management has created comprehensive guidelines and policies regarding when and how to report potential issues related to client or worker safety.

Recognizing When Speaking Up Protects Clients and Staff

Clinicians must also speak up and bring concerns to management if they notice policies or procedures within treatment programs that may potentially harm clients or healthcare workers. In some cases, clinicians may need to talk to management about concerning events they witness during the course of a typical workday. Determining when to speak up is not always easy. Some people may feel uncertain about whether something is their responsibility to follow up on. Driftwood Recovery encourages staff members to discuss concerns with their supervisors.

Everyday Situations Where Speaking Up Is Necessary

Healthcare workers often experience situations where clients are going through emotionally distressing events. Ensuring those moments remain safe for everyone involved takes knowledge and experience. Being able to anticipate situations that may cause stress or tension ensures staff members know when to reach out for help or speak up about potential safety issues. Below are three situations where a staff member should address the problem with their supervisor or other appropriate individuals.

#1. Harassment Involving Clients or Coworkers

Employee or client harassment is often subjective and covers a wide range of behaviors. What one person may experience as harassment, someone else may find distressing. The subjective nature of physical, verbal, or sexual harassment makes it difficult for people to know when to speak up and report the problem.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), "Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history) . . . Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance."

Not all unwanted behaviors are considered illegal. For example, isolated events, petty behavior, or simple annoyances are not generally considered harassment. Anyone can become the subject of harassment.

#2. Speaking Up If a Client Is a Danger to Themselves or Others

Some clients recovering from substance abuse experience periods of suicidal ideation or self-harming behaviors due to co-occurring mental health disorders. Clients who are a danger to themselves or others need access to higher levels of care. To keep everyone safe, clinicians must report the issue to their supervisors and any appropriate authorities.

#3. Safety Issues In the Workplace

Some workplaces may experience safety issues caused by human error, policy lapse, or miscommunication. Identifying and addressing potential problems in policy and workplace communication is essential to ensuring the safety of clients and staff members. Driftwood Recovery encourages staff to speak up if they notice something improper in the workplace. Every day, the leadership team connects with clinicians and support staff to ensure they feel comfortable saying something if they encounter a problem or concern.

Clinicians and support staff working in addiction recovery programs have an ethical obligation to address safety issues noticed within the workplace. Clients, their families, and coworkers rely on staff to recognize signs of a potential safety concern and report it promptly and appropriately. In some cases, reporting safety issues may involve law enforcement or other authorities. Even seemingly minor safety concerns are important to mention. The management team at Driftwood Recovery expects staff members to speak up and address issues as quickly as possible, following program policies and procedures. To learn more about our programs and how we ensure client safety during treatment, call our office today at (512) 759-8330.