advise needed

  1. i have recently experienced been terminated from my position at a hospital for a HIPPA violation and need some advise.

    the incident occurred about two weeks ago on a shift at work. background: i was a pct on a peds cardiology floor and had been there for almost a year. before this position, i worked on a postpartum floor for a year and a half.

    i logged into my EPIC account to add some patient vitals into their chart. every time i logged into EPIC i was able to see my old postpartum floor, labor and delivery floor, their exam rooms and the neonatal nurseries. I saw one of our coworkers was on the labor and delivery exam board and mentioned this to the other nurses at the station. i had heard other nurses talking about how she had wanted to get pregnant a week prior. i expressed concern about hoping she was okay.

    i later asked if that nurse was okay because i had seen her downstairs and she said she was fine and my day continued on. i also expressed guilt about seeing her name on the board to my other coworkers later and they said to be careful and not to do it again.

    last sunday i received a text message from my manager to come to the office on monday to talk about some stuff. i said okay. when i showed up to the office he tells me we're going to
    the compliance office and leaves me in his office alone until it's time to
    go. one of the nurses who had told me to be careful had reported me.

    i tell the officer everything that happened and was honest about
    everything. the next day i was fired. when i was fired, my manager said they know that i did not go into her chart but because i mentioned it to my coworkers that i was fired. i have never been in trouble before this

    i have heard of people being suspensed on their first offenses and fired after that.

    so my question is: what will this do to my career? where should i go from here? i am currently in nursing school and am worried about what this is going to do to me.
  2. Visit pedsorbust profile page

    About pedsorbust

    Joined: Jan '17; Posts: 5; Likes: 2

    17 Comments

  3. by   Rose_Queen
    Those answers will truly depend on what is done with what you did beyond the termination. The person whose information you learned via channels you shouldn't have could file an official complaint. Or, they may not file an official complaint. What is key here is what you have learned from the situation and what you will do to prevent it in the future.
  4. by   jdub6
    Had this nurse requested to opt out of the hospital directory? if so then you have a big problem. If not, then the actions you described do not actually violate US law. The fact that a particular person is a patient in a hospital, along with their room number (which in many facilties can indicate the general nature and severity of their condition) and their official condition (critical, serious, fair etc) is NOT confidential and may be provided to anyone who asks unless the patient requests to opt out.

    Information someone shares with you in a social rather than professional context is also not covered by HIPAA. Unless the RN told you about her fertility concerns in a provider- patient context, then telling the other staff on the floor was perhaps in poor taste but not illegal.

    The biggest wrinkle I see here is that you learned she was a patient in the course of performing your job. I do not know whether or not that matters when the information you learned and disclosed was not confidential information. Since nothing you shared was legally protected, termination seems extreme.

    On the other hand, many facility policies are much stricter than the law and if the official penalty for violation is termination then you have no leg to stand on. In particular I'm thinking they could argue that disclosing info she shared with you privately, even though it was not protected by HIPAA,as well as disclosing something you learned in the course of your job (even though everyone you told could legally have found out on their own anyway) could be seen as violating a code of conduct or ethics.

    However, in less something is missing in the OP, this is a personnel issue- unlike the poster above I do not believe the nurse will have any success in filling a legal complaint against you.
  5. by   pedsorbust
    hi jdub6!

    thanks for your post. I had heard other nurses talking about how the other nurse was trying to get pregnant. I just happened to find out she was pregnant the day I saw it on EPIC. The nurses on the floor always talk about whats going on in everyone's lives, so when i saw it I thought maybe someone knew something. All i saw that day was her name and gestational age and nothing else because I did not go into her chart.
  6. by   NICU Guy
    I am confused as to how this is a HIPAA violation. I use EPIC also and when we log in, it shows the list of patients and diagnosis for the whole unit. Am I violating HIPAA because I can see the entire unit? You didn't access her chart, so how is this a violation?
  7. by   pedsorbust
    hey guy in babyland!

    it was a hippa violation because i told my coworkers that i saw her name on the board
  8. by   pedsorbust
    hey! it was a violation because i told my other coworkers because i saw her name on the board
  9. by   Rose_Queen
    Quote from jdub6
    However, in less something is missing in the OP, this is a personnel issue- unlike the poster above I do not believe the nurse will have any success in filling a legal complaint against you.
    It may not be successful, but it could happen and be a headache to get through. However, I think there may be an issue with OP working on one floor but seeing information on a floor on which she hadn't worked for a year. When I log into my EMR system, I log in to the unit where I'm working. I can only see a list of patients within my unit. Accessing any other list would be against policy. It is likely more of a workplace policy issue than a true HIPAA issue, but that doesn't mean someone can't make trouble.
  10. by   Rose_Queen
    Quote from Guy in Babyland
    I am confused as to how this is a HIPAA violation. I use EPIC also and when we log in, it shows the list of patients and diagnosis for the whole unit. Am I violating HIPAA because I can see the entire unit? You didn't access her chart, so how is this a violation?
    OP was seeing a screen for a unit that is different than the one she works on. If it's not her unit, she does not have a need to be seeing a list of patients.
  11. by   jetsy62
    OP, are you saying when you log in, you can see a general list of patients on all the floors of the hospital, not just your floor/unit? You did not access the chart, you just saw her name on a list?
  12. by   pedsorbust
    hi! i used to work on l&d and when i switched to peds cards my EPIC never changed. i just have to flip to a new screen to view our own patient list. so when i log in, I see L&D, postpartum, antepartum and the neonatal nurseries. then I switch over to peds cards list. but no, i never went into her chart, i just saw her name on the list of people in the exam room.
  13. by   JadedCPN
    It seems to me that the issue isn't that she saw her name on a list for another unit, but rather what she did with that information once she saw it - instead of clicking onto her unit and going about her day, she decided to share with coworkers that Nurse XYZ was on the labor and delivery floor. She didn't know that because of her personal relationship with that nurse, but because of what she saw in EPIC. The sharing of that information is where she went wrong.
  14. by   llg
    Quote from JadedCPN
    It seems to me that the issue isn't that she saw her name on a list for another unit, but rather what she did with that information once she saw it - instead of clicking onto her unit and going about her day, she decided to share with coworkers that Nurse XYZ was on the labor and delivery floor. She didn't know that because of her personal relationship with that nurse, but because of what she saw in EPIC. The sharing of that information is where she went wrong.
    Also, she should have reported the fact that she was still seeing her old units to the appropriate manager or IS Department.

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