A friend's Mother is a patient - page 2

by mauddib 2,305 Views | 16 Comments

So I am about half way through RN school and tonight something interesting happened to me and I have questions that hopefully someone here can help me with. For starters, this took place in NYS. I was on the floor tonight... Read More


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    If it happened exactly as you wrote, you didn't violate HIPAA.

    I would also let the issue drop with your professor.
    WeepingAngel and sapphire18 like this.
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    If the instructor was not aware of the earlier interaction, she wouldn't have known that the friend initiated the contact and that the family was apparently comfortable with your presence. It would have looked like you were the one striking up the conversation, and the instructor's caution would have been not only correct, but necessary.

    Why didn't you just explain that the friend and family members (including the patient) had started the ball rolling earlier and you were simply saying goodbye?

    Instructors are only human. If an important piece of the puzzle is missing, it might be good to supply it rather than get all bent our of shape because she didn't understand.

    On the flip side, having had the earlier conversation with your friend, it probably wasn't necessary to interrupt a conversation to go say goodbye to him. You were there to attend clinical, not to socialize.

    I would caution you further that, while what took place doesn't appear to have broken any rules, encouraging friendship or a social connection while at a clinical or on the job can predispose you to errors down the road. You can still be friendly in your demeanor, but I really wouldn't encourage a lot of interaction with people you know (who are not your patients). Even though you understand the boundaries, they don't. They might mention aspects of their treatment with you before you can stop them and put you on the spot. Without doing anything wrong, you might still end up knowing more than is good for you or for them. Also, people who feel vulnerable sometimes spill their guts and feel awkward about it after the fact. It's better for you to set the boundaries that will help avoid this.

    Even if they say something about their treatment and you do nothing more than refer them back to their doc or their nurse, their confidences can create discomfort. And heaven help you if your expression or anything you say creates a question. It wouldn't take much for one of them to say, "When I told that other nurse what meds I'm taking, he made a funny face." You might have. You might not have. It doesn't matter. You just don't need that kind of hassle while you're still in school. Or after.

    Bottom line--be friendly but not overly so. Extricate yourself from any and all confidences regarding someone else's patient. Don't go out of your way to recognize or say hello or goodbye to people you know from other areas of life. If they initiate contact, be cordial but brief. Keep a professional distance between you and other people you know. It may feel odd at first, but eventually, it will come naturally.
    Last edit by rn/writer on Feb 18, '12
    Meriwhen likes this.
  3. 0
    As others have said, this is absolutely not a HIPAA violation. Your instructor might not have known that they initiated contact, like writer said. You could just explain that. A lot of people are overly sensitive about HIPAA and exaggerate it...on the flip side, some people are in violation of it all the time. Just saying, I think a lot of people take HIPAA too far sometimes. Better safe than sorry though, I guess.
  4. 0
    These kind of discussions always amuse me and I wonder what these "all knowing and all powerful" nursing instructors think about small town hospitals where you routinely take care of neighbors, family and friends. The reality of the world we live in means we will cross paths with people we know and we must know how to handle this. Instead of telling the OP no contact the "instructor" should have taken this as an oportunity to evaluate the students knowledge in privacy (which is good I may add). You handled the interaction very well, you discussed the parameters of your role in their care and the limitations. As far as the "instructor" is concerned, they need to educate themselves not only on privacy but on how to just take care of folks, since thats our job. Now, since this person is in a role that could determine your future then do what they tell you but understand you handled things very well. Your "insturtor" is well, my mom told me if I don't have anything nice to say then keep my mouth shut....
  5. 0
    Your professor was just being overcautious. She knows students do boneheaded things and was trying to avoid any potential problems.
  6. 0
    First off, thanks for all the responses!

    Well actually I did tell the professor that they called me into the room while I was walking past it. I hadn't even noticed them at all up until that point. Anyway, I spoke with her via email and she's agreed to meet with me when school re-starts in just over a week to answer my questions. She's very reasonable and always willing to help so hopefully she'll be able to help me out with this.

    And for the record, I explained to my friend and his parents the privacy rules so that they'd know them to a) feel more secure in the privacy of the Mother and b) so as to understand why I was drawing limitations on our interactions.

    All of this I told my professor. So I am looking forward to meeting with her outside of clinical to be able to get a fuller understanding of the situation.

    Or who knows, maybe she's just gonna kick me out of the program I hope not though because I really do like helping people and frankly, she is a very understanding and helpful so it should all be good!
  7. 0
    Quote from rn/writer
    If the instructor was not aware of the earlier interaction, she wouldn't have known that the friend initiated the contact and that the family was apparently comfortable with your presence. It would have looked like you were the one striking up the conversation, and the instructor's caution would have been not only correct, but necessary.

    Why didn't you just explain that the friend and family members (including the patient) had started the ball rolling earlier and you were simply saying goodbye?

    Instructors are only human. If an important piece of the puzzle is missing, it might be good to supply it rather than get all bent our of shape because she didn't understand.
    Just to clarify, my message did say that they spotted me and called me over. The prof. also knew this. And as for the 2nd time, my friend was in the hallway and wearing a jacket so I just walked over to say goodbye as I was 10 feet away from him at the time.


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