Help & HIPAA

Nurses HIPAA


Specializes in critical care.

Hello, I recently took a nursing job and quit said job in a month.  I have never witnessed such unprofessionalism in my entire life.  That being said I am not proud about my actions.  I should have questioned more and definitely rethought my course of action.  On my last day I was alerted to new bruising in two of my patients.  The head nurse suggested I take a picture of said bruise with my phone.  I took photo with my personal cellphone and sent picture to the head nurses and PA for treatment recommendations.  I think I really messed up and am more than a little worried.  I will not go over all the unprofessional behavior I witnessed.  I am just sorry I stayed.  R3N

Do not use your personal device to communicate anything that is PHI (protected health information), **OR anything that a random busybody might be concerned is PHI.** It's best (safest) to not use your personal device to communicate regarding patients AT ALL, ever.

 Your employer should have HIPAA compliant electronic means to communicate about care of specific patients. If they do not, that's on them and you will have to rely on old-school methods, which in this case would have been assessing the patient, then calling the responsible provider and describing your findings and concerns.

You do not say if you are a registered nurse; I will assume you are for the sake of this reply. Please understand I hope to give you a couple of things to think about for the future, not to make you feel worse when you're already down.

In the future you must exercise better independent judgment. Every US RN should know what could happen if they choose to take photos of patients or choose to communicate things like this in a non-HIPAA compliant manner. Is it done? Yes, it is. But every single individual who participates is taking certain risks upon themselves. And *rarely* is the risk worth any significant tangible benefit.

Many times staff do these things because it is way more convenient (for example, situations where staff do not carry employer-provided phones to communicate directly in a way that is HIPAA-compliant). We all need to understand that items such as HIPAA compliant devices are employer responsibilities. If they choose not to provide such a thing, that doesn't mean it becomes our responsibility to use our personal devices for which we pay the bill for our own personal use and are not HIPAA compliant. Our responsibility, with regard to this, is to abide by the laws that apply to our profession. I bring this up because there is, I would say, a LOT of pressure in the nursing profession to take various short-cuts as a means of mitigating the business choices of our employers. It affects innumerable aspects of nursing, not just HIPAA and not just communication. We have to be discerning about how we choose to conduct ourselves professionally.

With regard to the unprofessionalism you witnessed: As best you can, try not to work in places where unprofessionalism is rampant. It just isn't safe; usually there is a lack of patient safety and also it just isn't professionally safe--there are too many ways to get caught up in trouble in a place like that.

If you were terminated because of this incident, it's hard to say if anything more will come of it.

I do hope for your sake that you can just move forward with lesson learned.

Take care ~

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