Ethical/Personal Dilemma - What would you do?

  1. 0
    Hello everyone- I need some insight on what to do on this event that occurred 3-4 weeks ago.Currently a RN student in my last semester; there is a friend ( X) in my program whom also works at one of the local hospitals which I do as well. During one of her shifts, X sent me a message stating that one of the patients in her floor was the husband of one of our past professors and whom we were supposed to have as a professor this last semester again. She told me in this message that the patient had been admitted a day before with X Diagnosis and also suffering from X and Y. I felt weird because even though she is a friend, I felt that its not right for her to be sharing that kind of information with me so I told her that she should be careful and respect patient confidentiality.1 week later school started and we find out that this professor will not be teaching our class for a personal issue.. While walking to class on campus, Y, another friend from the program tells me that this professor is probably not going to teach the class because her husband is sick, maybe pretty sick.. As not knowing, I asked Y how did she know, which she replied.. Oh, X told me... That made me feel even more uncomfortable because to be honest I really care for this professor, we have built a great relationship. A few hrs later I find out that X had not only told me, but also to Y and to Z.. Not sure if she mentioned it to more people or not..She violated HIPAA, Hospital Policy and Patient's rights... Should I mention this to my professor? That X told several of our class about her husband's condition? Should I contact the nurse manager of her floor and mention what X mentioned to me and several others? If I dont do it because she is a friend, I will be failing one of my duties as a healthcare provider and preventing this from happening in the future.. I would be very ****** off and upset if someone was leaking information from a family member..If I do say it and she gets fired from her work I will feel guilty, and what if she gets kicked off the program? She has done certain things in the program that I was not happy about in the past, like cheating while on an exam with another student and the professor had a serious talk with them..I just don't know what to do?? What would you do?Tell the professor? Tell her Nurse Manager? Thanks in advance.
    Last edit by JustBeachyNurse on Sep 2, '12
  2. 50 Comments so far...

  3. 4
    I will be very curious as to what the responses will be. As you know, what your friend has done is extremely serious and has caused potential issues for the professor. I would not tell the professor. She has enough to deal with right now. Nor would I go to the NM (employer). I would go directly to either another professor that has your trust or the head of your nursing program. The school needs to deal with this and will likely notify the employer as well.
    MissPiggy, tokmom, ktwlpn, and 1 other like this.
  4. 4
    I would contact the person the head of the nursing program. If someone finds out that you know and did nothing to protect the patient you could possibly get into trouble yourself.
  5. 6
    Here is my take on it:

    Yes, she absolutely violated HIPAA. I happen to live in an area where it is a very small area and everyone knows everyone. Nurses will sometimes come into work and if they had a patient a week ago, pop into the room to see how the patient was doing. Yes, technically this is a HIPAA violation if the RN is not assigned, but around here, people really and truly appreciate it.

    This is what I would do...realistically.

    #1 I would not turn this person in. There is nothing gained by it.

    #2 I would call her up and talk to her and say, "Hey...you really shouldn't have violated the privacy of the professors family...people are talking and I won't have a choice but to turn you in if I hear about it again."

    #3 If she does it again...TURN HER BUTT IN.

    Anyone can make a mistake....but she has to realize, if she is going to be a nurse, she has got to start acting like one.
    snuggles49, MissPiggy, JB2007, and 3 others like this.
  6. 6
    Wow. You mean the school found out she cheated on an exam and didn't kick her out?

    This is not the type of person who deserves to take care if patients as she obviously completely disregards rules.

    Let her feel the consequences and report her actions to the head of the nursing program. If they don't take action, go to the HIPAA compliance officer at your institution (if I understood correctly you both work for the same employer, so you have an obligation as an employee to report HIPAA violations).

    Sent from my iPhone using allnurses.com
    DawnJ, orthonurse55, VictoriaGayle, and 3 others like this.
  7. 7
    Quote from Jory
    This is what I would do...realistically.#1 I would not turn this person in. There is nothing gained by it.
    I strongly disagree. This nursing student no doubt already has a very good understanding of HIPAA. She really should not receive a free pass for this egregious violation.But even if one believes there's nothing to gain by reporting, I will agree wiith another poster that OP has everything to lose by being aware of the violation and failing to act. Institutions are scared to death of running afoul of HIPAA. They will likely not only punish the offender but also anyone who knew yet failed to report the violation.
    orthonurse55, mom2cka, MAtoBSN, and 4 others like this.
  8. 1
    Quote from roser13
    I strongly disagree. This nursing student no doubt already has a very good understanding of HIPAA. She really should not receive a free pass for this egregious violation.But even if one believes there's nothing to gain by reporting, I will agree wiith another poster that OP has everything to lose by being aware of the violation and failing to act. Institutions are scared to death of running afoul of HIPAA. They will likely not only punish the offender but also anyone who knew yet failed to report the violation.
    I totally agree with this. I read a post from a few months back of a nurse being fired because one of her coworkers talked about a patient of theirs on her facebook page. Even though the nurse wasn't the one who posted this, she was fired because she knew of it and/or allowed it to remain on the page, but did nothing about it.
    roser13 likes this.
  9. 5
    Agree with Roser. This is an egregious violation of HIPAA. It is gossip, malicious, and it indicates a complete lack of respect for patients, their families, and the facility in which that person is working.

    The other issue is that if the facility finds out that your friend has been gossiping, your school could very likely be given the boot and would no longer be able to do clinical rotations at the facility.

    If that happens, this will get extremely ugly, there will be an investigation, and a student who has no qualms about gossiping about patients will have no qualms about identifying who she gossiped to.

    My suggestion is that you speak to your school directors first to give them the opportunity to address this issue appropriately before it blows up at the clinical site.

    They will have to tell them what happened, but if they can say that they have terminated the student from the program, they might have a chance of salvaging the relationship with the facility -- and any other clinical training facilities that they work with.

    After that, if it isn't addressed, the next option is to go to the compliance line at the facility where your classmate is working. In a lot of facilities, those departments allow people to anonymously identify compliance violations.
    Last edit by mazy on Sep 2, '12 : Reason: edited to add
    tigerlogic, nursel56, EMTtoRNinVA, and 2 others like this.
  10. 1
    I would tell my advisor, assuming she's not the professor whose husband is hospitalized, and ask where to go from there.
    MissPiggy likes this.
  11. 4
    The class ahead of me in nursing school had some issues with students cheating and attempted to kick the students out of the program. Some lawyers and proceedings later they each ended up in with my class (1 year behind). These same people have now gone on to bigger violations as licensed RNs. I vehemently say TURN HER IN. Go to the Dean of your program, and have Y & Z on board with you. Present the text messages as proof you aren't just fibbing. HIPAA is important in healthcare, as is general respect for individuals as human beings. We are nurses--we don't write for TMZ!
    Kimevans711, MAtoBSN, merlee, and 1 other like this.


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