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Are nurses allowed to turn in wanted criminals?

Nurses   (9,433 Views 32 Comments)
by Emergent Emergent (Member) Member Nurse

Emergent has 25 years experience .

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I'm always seeing wanted people on Facebook. If I recognized one who came into my ER, would I be allowed to turn him/her in?

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KatieMI has 6 years experience as a BSN, MSN, RN and specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine.

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HIPAA does not cover situations when there is real or perceived threat for human life and safety, patient's or others. So, by the law, yes, you can and probably should do it, just like with suspected abuse. But I would not do it on my own, maybe unless the person's face is blasted on CNN.

I bet that ER myst have some sort of policy about such sutuations, as you guys surely can be exposed to just such situation.

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whichone'spink has 3 years experience as a BSN, RN.

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Recently in my city, it came out that a suspected murderer now on trial was seen in the ER I used to work in. The nurse that cared for him later reported to the police that the patient told her he killed someone. At the time it was also found he was high on drugs, although I don't know what drugs were found in his system. To me, anything a patient says under the influence of drugs or alcohol should not be reported to the police, because it will definitely be used against them in court. I don't know if HIPAA will cover my ass, or what hospital policy is regarding this matter. But if a patient is under the influence of some mind altering substance and says they committed a crime, it's my own personal policy that I won't say anything or make a note in the chart.

Now if I find out if a patient I have is on the most wanted list, I really don't know what I'd do. Depends on my mood I guess. If the patient treats me and others like dirt, I might be angry enough to search the most wanted list. But I've not done that, even though I've had plenty of obnoxious patients. It's never occurred to me to deliberately look at the most wanted list.

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I can't believe that someone who has worked ER for 23 years is asking this question. If your ER doesn't have a policy, contact your hospital risk manager stat and get it done.

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MunoRN has 10 years experience as a RN and specializes in Critical Care.

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You're generally only allowed to notify police when there is an "imminent threat" to public safety, which requires more than just the fact that the person is a suspected or known criminal. An example that's often used is that a patient tells you they've tied someone to the railroad tracks and there's a train coming, that sort of imminent threat.

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We did have a guy brought in and in the course of his care it was revealed there was an APB out for him for murder. We were obligated to inform the authorities due to his need to be arrested and to protect ourselves and others.

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kristinc312 has 6 years experience as a RN and specializes in Behavioral Health.

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I work as a clinical nursing manager in a 28 day behavioral health/drug treatment program. As you can imagine, a large portion of our patients come in with pending charges, previous convictions, etc. And although we ask during admission pre-screen in they have any outstanding warrants or pending charges, it's not uncommon for them to fib and end up admitted with active warrants. We do not turn our patients in. We've had situations where police are

tipped off by a member of the public as to their location, and the sheriff will call and ask if we have that patient. In that case, we do tell them if that person is in our facility. I would think this is something, especially in an ER, that is has a clearly spelled out policy written on how to address. You should check with your supervisor or P&P's for your individual facility for guidance.

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BSNbeDONE specializes in Med/Surg, LTACH, LTC, Home Health.

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Nurses who harbor criminals, regardless of the location, are just as guilty as the criminals themselves, as would be any other individual.

We do not silently aid-and-abet (spelling?) wanted criminals by turning a blind eye. If it is determined that one of our patients is wanted by the law, anyone can make an anonymous phone call to the proper authorities...which is what I would do. This is told to each of us during the onboarding process in employment.

If it is discovered after the patient has been admitted, notify the manager, who should notify the hospital's security/police department, who should and probably will inform local authorities. The patient care continues, but probably under a (literally) guarded situation until discharge.

If this is discovered on a day off and we know the patient's (criminal's) location, again, anonymous phone call, phone call to the hospital's security department, and/or call to the supervisor. We have an obligation of safety to all individuals who enter our doors: colleagues, patients, and visitors.

We are far too busy with sick people. Word is already out that known drug addicts can come to us with subjective complaints and get their quick-fix. We do not want to be known as a safe haven for basic and/or hardened criminals.

Just my opinion...

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Kitiger has 40 years experience as a RN and specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics.

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Here's a twist. In respite care for home care kids, we are not allowed to reveal who the kids are. Even if a teen who is able to go out into the community comes back to the Respite House with stolen goods, we are not allowed to tell a policeman who comes to the Respite House that the teen is there. The best I can do is to give the policeman my supervisor's number. The fact that the teen shoplifted is addressed within his IEP (Individual Care Plan).

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BSNbeDONE specializes in Med/Surg, LTACH, LTC, Home Health.

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Here's a twist. In respite care for home care kids, we are not allowed to reveal who the kids are. Even if a teen who is able to go out into the community comes back to the Respite House with stolen goods, we are not allowed to tell a policeman who comes to the Respite House that the teen is there. The best I can do is to give the policeman my supervisor's number. The fact that the teen shoplifted is addressed within his IEP (Individual Care Plan).
This is similar to the practice we had when I was employed at detox back in the late 80s. For confidentiality reasons, we could not disclose whether or not a particular client was receiving treatment there...unless the police already were aware of the admission as evidenced by showing up with a warrant in hand. In that case, sorry, you gotta go.

Warrants from the judicial system have a way of nullifying components of confidentiality protocols.

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1 Article; 630 Posts; 15,117 Profile Views

Here's a twist. In respite care for home care kids, we are not allowed to reveal who the kids are. Even if a teen who is able to go out into the community comes back to the Respite House with stolen goods, we are not allowed to tell a policeman who comes to the Respite House that the teen is there. The best I can do is to give the policeman my supervisor's number. The fact that the teen shoplifted is addressed within his IEP (Individual Care Plan).

Interesting. I used to work in a child and adolescent psychiatric hospital's Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) where the kids could go on outings with staff or get day/weekend passes to go home. I never thought about this aspect. I wonder if that was the case with them. Things that make you go hmmmmm.........

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Been there,done that has 33 years experience as a ASN, RN.

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Sure you could. Just make an anonymous phone call ;)

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