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Are nurses allowed to turn in wanted criminals?

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?

KatieMI specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine.

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.

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.

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.

MunoRN specializes in Critical Care.

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.

WKShadowNP specializes in Hospital medicine; NP precepting; staff education.

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.

kristinc312 specializes in Behavioral Health.

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.

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

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...

Kitiger specializes in Private Duty Pediatrics.

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).

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

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.

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.........

kbrn2002 specializes in Geriatrics, Dialysis.

This is an interesting question that I have never considered. I would imagine the hospital has some kind of policy in place should the situation arise.

MunoRN specializes in Critical Care.

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...

That's actually a pretty clear HIPAA violation as it doesn't abide by the notification of law enforcement requirements, and no, treating someone accused of a crime is not aiding and abetting. Aside from the legal definitions of what exactly is required to notify law enforcement of a patient being in your facility, it's also unethical.

WKShadowNP specializes in Hospital medicine; NP precepting; staff education.

Now, I've had police come and ask about a case, even for a moving violation, but they are not given information without a warrant. Once, the policeman didn't even know the patient's name. I was not about to divulge any information on the several who met his narrative.

RiskManager specializes in Healthcare risk management and liability.

Many national and state hospital associations have model guides or policies on this issue. For example, here is Washington's: http://www.wsha.org/wp-content/uploads/HIPAA-Guide-2015-update-FINAL-zes-tb-edits_DKAcceptions.pdf and here are the guidelines from the AHA: http://www.aha.org/content/00-10/guidelinesreleasinginfo.pdf

Most of these guidelines follow the HIPAA requirements, which are protective of PHI. Generally speaking, I would only allow nursing staff to notify law enforcement of a fugitive if the nurse has a reasonable belief that doing so will prevent or minimize an imminent danger to the patient or any other individual. I would want to see that reasonable belief articulated in the chart and to have the nurse check with me, Compliance, Privacy or nursing leadership first.

As for the OP, most hospitals do already have a policy on this: it is typically written and administered by Medical Records, Compliance, Privacy or Risk.

Conqueror+ has 26 years experience as a BSN, RN.

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...

Thats a dramatic stretch. Treating someones asthma attack in my ER does not make me complicit in the murder they committed. I am not law enforcement.

NotYourMamasRN specializes in Float Pool - A Little Bit of Everything.

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

My answer too. I feel as though I have an ethical obligation to protect public safety, a wanted criminal is a threat to public safety.

I agree with making an anonymous phone call. I don't see that's any different than if I were a patient in your ER waiting room who noticed someone's wanted face also in the waiting room, I'd definitely be sending an anonymous phone call.

MrNurse(x2) specializes in IMC, school nursing.

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.

Sorry, but this has struck such a deep chord. Wow, you really wouldn't keep the public safe? What if that person killed after you saw them, have you no conscience? WOW, JUST WOW.

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