Patient Confidentiality

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    I was in nursing school, found out it wasn't for me. I do have many family members and friends who are nurses so I enjoy this board. I was just wondering what your policies are on patient confidentialbity. The reason I ask is that my husband's ex is a nurse and when a family member was in the hospital for major surgery she had a terrible drug reaction and basically went through drug withdrawls, which I have since found out are very common with the pain medication and quanity she had been given. The ex looked up her records and told my stepkids what had happened. Our family has not decided whether to pursue a lawsuit yet and we were curious as to what the various policies on this issue was and the consquences of this. Any feedback is appreciated!!!!!
  2. 10 Comments so far...

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    This is a direct breach of pt confidentiality! Patient records and info about any patient is reserved to the health providers directly involved in the case, i.e., those that need to know the information in order to provide care to the pt. Even if this woman actually cared for the pt, any information is to be kept within the hospital. The only exception would be if the pt gave her permission to release this info to family, and at our hospital even that permission would have to be put into writing. It doesn't sound like that's the case here though. Good luck!
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    Is your husband's ex a good and decent nurse that made a judgement error? Was she trying to be helpful in providing information?

    I don't excuse the breach in confidentiality but contemplating a suit sounds drastic and fruitless. What is your desired end-result in all this?

    Send her a letter advising her of her mistake and breach. It may scare the bejesus out of her. We all make mistakes.
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    Well, whether or not she was trying to be nice and helpful, fact is, she blatantly broke the rules regarding confidentiality. I have been TEMPTED to look in many a family member's chart when they were hospitalized, but didn't because it was unethical and a breach of confid.. What she did was wrong, point blank. But I do agree with Natalie...instead of a suit, you could just let her know that you know what she did, and if she gets caught again, she's toast.

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    It's blatantly wrong and she should know it. Entirely a personal decision as to what you want to do...legal action is gonna wreak havoc among the family, esp. if children are involved. If you informed the hospital where she works, she would most likely be terminated immediately. Confidentiality is a BIG issue. We aren't even allowed to look up our OWN (personal) lab work if we had blood drawn our tests performed at the hospital.
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    Originally posted by Nottanurse1:
    I was in nursing school, found out it wasn't for me. I do have many family members and friends who are nurses so I enjoy this board. I was just wondering what your policies are on patient confidentialbity. The reason I ask is that my husband's ex is a nurse and when a family member was in the hospital for major surgery she had a terrible drug reaction and basically went through drug withdrawls, which I have since found out are very common with the pain medication and quanity she had been given. The ex looked up her records and told my stepkids what had happened. Our family has not decided whether to pursue a lawsuit yet and we were curious as to what the various policies on this issue was and the consquences of this. Any feedback is appreciated!!!!!
    that is a big no go. it doesnt matter what that nurse was trying to accomplish. it is wrong plain and simple.confidentiality is just that.no more and certainly no less. i do agree with the posts that said to let her know what she has done has not gone unnoticed, she needs more than the bejeebee's scared out of her.....

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    nottanurse1: What your husband's ex did was unethical, illegal, and a breach of patient confidentiality. It is common, upon beginning employment, to sign a patient confidentiality agreement. My institution requires every employee not only to attend an inservice on patient confidentiality, but also to sign a confidentiality contract. To breach this contract, most likely, would lead to disciplinary action and/or termination. Throughout the country, nurses have been brought up before their State Board of Nursing Examiners for breaching confidentiality.

    You didn't state the patient's specific relationship to you (other than being a family member), so I'm wondering why you are even involved in this. Unless this specifically involves you, your spouse, or any of the children, you should consider taking the high road and staying out of this matter. Your step kids won't suffer any permanent damage from the information their
    mother disclosed, but she should speak to them and tell them that it was inappropriate for her to be discussing confidential matter.

    I'm not downplaying her actions; she used very poor judgement, and the (patient) family member involved should consider contacting the employer stating the facts. The employer will follow-up on this. What would the motive be for suing? It is doubtful that the patient suffered any permanent damage from the indiscretion, and a lawsuit would not only be frivilous, but would further divide a family.

    Hug the kids, stay out of it, and move on. You will never regret taking the high road.



    [This message has been edited by susanmary (edited February 16, 2001).]
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    PATIENT CONFIDENTIALITY IS BIG! THER IS A NEW FEDERAL LAW CONCERNING THIS AND I KNOW HOSPITALS ARE GOING BONKERS TO COMPLY. WE OWN OUR OWN AMBULANCE SERVICE AND TRANSPORTED A PATIENT FROM ONE HOSPITAL TO ANOTHER. THE DISCHARGE HOSPITAL WOULD NOT GIVE THE RECIEVING HOSPITAL ANY INFORMATION SUCH AS THE BASIC DISCHARGE PAPERWORK. THEY STATED THEY DID NOT NEED IT. MY EMT HAD TO BEG FOR A FACE SHEET SO WE COULD BILL FOR THE RUN. WHEN HE ASKED FOR ANY INFO ON THE PATIENT IE WHAT WAS DX OF PT IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY, HE WAS TOLD "DO WHAT YOU CAN." THIS WOMAN IS IN MORE TROUBLE THAN SHE KNOWS.
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    The family member was my mother and due to the workfield she is in(politics) she could lose her job due to what happened to her (yes there are very unethical people out there in all fields of work!). She had to go back to this hospital later and had to admitted as confidential therefore it was next to impossible for other family and church members to find her. Also Mother refused to stay several more times that she needed to be admitted due to this. She has worked long and hard in her career and is ready to retire with full benefits but if she is terminated due to anything she will lose it all. Our family's first question when she was admitted the first time was if this nurse would be able to access her records and we were told absolutely not! I suppose this is our family's biggest concern that if it could happen to her then who would be next?? With health info as sensitive as it is now we felt very betrayed by the hospital. We believe the reason for her snooping and telling was not to be helpful but for revenge. Thanks again for all the comments.
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    Originally posted by Nottanurse1:
    The family member was my mother and due to the workfield she is in(politics) she could lose her job due to what happened to her (yes there are very unethical people out there in all fields of work!). She had to go back to this hospital later and had to admitted as confidential therefore it was next to impossible for other family and church members to find her. Also Mother refused to stay several more times that she needed to be admitted due to this. She has worked long and hard in her career and is ready to retire with full benefits but if she is terminated due to anything she will lose it all. Our family's first question when she was admitted the first time was if this nurse would be able to access her records and we were told absolutely not! I suppose this is our family's biggest concern that if it could happen to her then who would be next?? With health info as sensitive as it is now we felt very betrayed by the hospital. We believe the reason for her snooping and telling was not to be helpful but for revenge. Thanks again for all the comments.
    You've clarified the situation a great deal.
    Let's see if I've gotten this straight: Your family contacted the hospital in advance to ensure that "nurse ex" would not have access to your mother's records & were assured patient confidentiality. Patient confidentiality is a right in any facility!!!
    "Nurse ex" delved into your mother's files, and divulged sensitive information to the step kids (and who knows who else?) "Nurse ex" sounds like a very dangerous person who committed an illegal,unethical act. Your mother needs to get some sound legal advice asap. She absolutely has a lawsuit, but what is the outcome she desires? Quite a dilemma you all face since your mother wants to keep a low profile, and any legal action will generate publicity. Quite a dilemma, also, since there are step kids around. Your mother needs to get lawyer -- at the very least the lawyer should contact the hospital about the situation. I know I gave you advice about taking the high road -- what a mess. I'd have difficult time taking the high road if this had happened to my mom...but this ex is a time bomb, and there are kids involved...
    Hang in there.


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