A nurse asked me for a summary: What’s the deal with the Sunset Project? Why Sunlight? How does it work? What are the ground rules?
I happily and eagerly decided to accommodate this request, for three reasons:
1) Beth Boynton was the nurse who asked for a summary. Over time she has earned my prompt yes, regardless. Done!
2) Given what I know of Beth, I feel it safe to surmise that if she feels a need for a summary, then others also feel such a need. We’ve now entered double-yes, double-now territory! Done and Done!
3) It’s hardly difficult to throw together such a summary, and I’ll likely post something today, so…
Given such overwhelming logic. how could I say no? Trick question, that: I DON’T. Say no, that is…
So yes yes yes!!!, here’s a summary, folks. The What, The How, and The Why:
1) THE WHAT
What IS the Sunlight Project, anyway? In short, it’s an anonymous reporting system. I invite nurses to use post cards or other snail mail to anonymously report their experiences with abuse of any kind against nurses or patients. Such abuses include insurance fraud, bullying, retaliation for ethical practice, malpractice… anything. To protect reporters from retaliation, I quote their reports without their names, and few reporters offer their names. I offer no verification of these reports, as I lack the means to pursue such verification. I do offer context in the way of verified evidence either consistent with reporter complaints, or not. Once I’ve processed the information, I burn reporter mail as a further gesture of good faith, to reinforce my promise of anonymity. I collect all reports to date on the Sunlight: Post Cards page. As of 8/3/15, I’m proud to offer 36 such reports.
2) THE HOW
Sunlight’s Seven Rules:
1) I ask nurses to tell me about their experiences of abuse, bullying, fraud, corruption, and any other misbehavior towards nurses or patients.
2) I quote and collect your reports on the Sunlight: Post Cards page, as I also consider what else to do with them. I accept information in any form, but advise those reporters who fear retaliation to use good old-fashioned snail mail: post cards and letters. Unlike the internet, these options leave no trail back to the sender. I burn such mail after I’ve processed it. Cheap and easy privacy! See Sunlight Project Update or view here:
3) I will not knowingly violate HIPAA regulations. I ask the same of you.
4) I will never divulge any nurse reporter’s identity without their prior permission. I keep no records except my public posts. I destroy the snail mail I receive, unless asked otherwise by a nurse reporter. I thus make it impossible to break a reporters’ trust down the road. I can’t very well give information I don’t have. I designed this plan to replicate the protection once offered by Wiki-Leaks. I lack the technical and financial resources to secure internet communication, so I offer a cheap and reliable alternative. We nurses have an ethical and professional duty to protect each other and patients from harm and abuse, at both personal and community levels. Sunlight makes it far safer to perform this crucial duty, and help nurses protect each other as well.
5) Speaking of risk reduction, I will not knowingly report any information coming from Massachusetts, my home state and the source of my RN license. My liability is uncomfortably large on this deal, as I hope you’ll appreciate. I’ll cover the rest of the world. Someone else will need to cover Massachusetts.
6) I’m reluctant to post complaints from nurses about other nurses.
7) I appreciate feedback and help. See my contact page.
3) THE WHY
Why did I create the Sunlight Project? It’s simple, actually. To date, Sunlight has earned me nothing but lots of free work and deepening liability: a growing list of potential and/or real enemies among all the most powerful and corrupt forces in American healthcare, increasingly motivated to shut my nurse reporter mouth shut for good, whatever it takes. Oh, and those sweet folks most likely to try to glue my mouth shut also rank among the least ethical and the most ruthless people in healthcare today. In other words, American nursing’s very worst enemies. Grand! My safest bet is to fail to gather attention, as I do my very best to attract as much attention possible. Again, grand!
So again, given that not exactly wonderful payoff, why do I persist? I persist because I’m an idealist, and I feel I have no choice in the matter. The needs and the stakes involved both compel me to offer my time and effort.
People often abuse nurses for various reasons: fraud, corruption, greed, sloth, pride, stupidity, incompetence… or some mix. People often abuse patients, for the same reasons. Nurses often witness both flavors of abuse. Nurses are mandated reporters in such cases: ethically, professionally, and in many cases as specifically required by state law as a license requirement. Nurse typically focus to a fault on “covering butt” and documenting everything in sight, yet they usually do NOT report any of the above abuses. They routinely break the law and ANA Codes, yet they refuse to report. Why?
If you need to ask, you’re clearly not a nurse, or you’re a nurse lacking honesty of a grasp on reality. In other words, the answer is painfully obvious: nurses are typically both practical and vulnerable. As every savvy nurses knows, with each abuse report they make entirely according to current policies, procedures, and relevant law, with each abuse report they send this way, each nurse reporter make themselves deeply vulnerable to ruthless and severe retaliation. In at least one state – Arizona – available evidence suggests that the state Board of Nursing and state ANA officials routinely and openly conspire with corrupt employers to strip such nurses reporters of their license to practice. Even if a nurse manages to fend off such retaliation, such a victory requires the nurse in question to survive:
1) Extended unemployment – months to years – and
2) A deep and growing pile of debt from legal and state fees, and
3) Severe defamation of character by powerful heath care officials for all to see and hear.
Not surprisingly, few nurses step up to do the right things under such devastatingly long odds. Practical and vulnerable, right?
As best I can, I offer such nurses a safe way to discharge their duties as nurses and tell their stories. I offer to absorb most of the liability involved: hopefully, all of it. I’ve specifically designed the Sunlight reporting system to help nurses feel safe enough, to BE safe enough, to:
1) Help nurses protect themselves and gather their power, to
2) Offer the public the information it deserves and requires, and to help
3) Cure American healthcare of its illnesses – rampant corruption, waste, and abuse.
As WHY’s go, these three seems to me a more than adequate. They’re strong enough, in fact, to compel my participation as a nurse, citizen, and human being. A motivational trifecta, folks! I will not give up, and yes, I am afraid. With every new contact, every new step towards improved public awareness, every step forward, I become that much more afraid. I’m learning to live with that as I go.
I ask only for what you can give, no more. Tell me your stories! It’s a great place to start, and our only hope for the future.