I told my cousin something....

Nurses General Nursing


Ok don't know if this is the right place to put this or not but here goes! About 6 months ago my mother call me and told me my aunt, her sister, was in the hospital. It was thought she had had a stroke. She was unable to move on side of her body, her speech was slurred etc. all the classic signs of a stroke. She had a fall, earlier in the week and had hit her head, so she ended up having a bleed and was in the hospital for quite a while. Anyway, I found out no one had called my cousins, her daughter or her son, and told them that their mom was in the hospital so I call my cousin and told her. She seemed grateful that I had called and let her know, she didn't even know that her mom had fallen! Her mom is disabled, was in a near fatal car accident years ago, and her dad just doesn't think to let her know things. They all live in the same city and have a 'normal' family relationship! I am an RN and I know about HIPPA and it certainly didn't cross my mind that it played in to this situation. (I don't even work in the same state) Her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews knew she was in the hospital but her own kids didn't know! THey had a right to know don't you think, she wasn't able to let them know her self! Any way we saw my cousin and her husband at a family gathering yesterday (i've seen them both and my aunt since she was hospitalized and have heard nothing about this then) and her husband told my husband 'I'm still pi**ed at your wife for calling my wife and telling her that Sue was in the hospital it was none of here GD business, if Sue had wanted Lynn to know she would have told her herself'! My husband tried to explain to Frank that I didn't call out of noseyness or to be mean but out of pure concern for my aunt and my cousin. I've spoken to my Aunt and my cousin and neither of them are upset that I did this. I think Frank abuses Lynn but she denies it, and i believe that he is mad because he is trying to keep her away from her family. He is mean to his inlaws and is just a creap! MY husband and I are godparents to their youngest child so we have had a fairly close relationship!

AND I WOULD AND WILL DO IT AGAIN! What would you have done, was I wrong?

Specializes in Adult Oncology.

I am the one usually tasked with calling my family members and keeping them up to date, as I'm the only child out of 5 who has stayed local. Usually they (the person with the illness) asks me to keep everyone up to date. If I'm ever in doubt, I ask the person if they want me to tell people. Such as when my husband was very ill and in the hospital. His family is close-knit (but in other states), but they have no concept of medical care and would interfere more than support. So I asked him if he wanted me to let them know, and he said no. So I didn't tell them and let him tell them once he was able.

I would say if the family member did not personally tell to you be the spokesperson, you can ask if they want you to keep family in the loop if they are able to tell you. Since it was your aunt, and your mother is the sister and told you, maybe your mother should have been the one to share the information with your aunt's children. Rather than it become 3rd or 4th hand info. We all know how mixed up information can become and how family members, however close or distant, can interfere with patient care when there is not a clear individual who is the spokesperson.

But no, I don't think it's a HIPAA issue, since you were not involved in your aunt's medical care nor used your position to gain access to her medical files in order to share the information.

This is so tricky because it's not like its your neighbor or a friend, it's your family. After reading your story i don't think you violated hippa because you found out about the fall from your family - therefor calling your cousin had nothing to do with you being a nurse. Now if you went into the chart in order to learn details, and shared that information with your cousin - then that is where you crossed the line. Don't let this eat you up.:redbeathe


Jolie, BSN

6,375 Posts

Specializes in Maternal - Child Health.

Do I understand correctly that you and your aunt live in different states, and that you have no connection (employment-wise or professionally) with the facility where she was treated or her physician?

If so, then HIPAA does not apply.

Please brush up on HIPAA requirements to save yourself unnecessary mental anguish.

Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about poor communicaton in a dysfunctional family.


37 Posts

Thanks for your replies!

No I don't live or work in the same state as my aunt, I work LTC and have no affiliation with the hospital she was in.

My mom occasionally helps my aunt and uncle to MD appointments at their request since she is disabled and he is extremely unhealthy ( they are in their 60's and 70's) She asked me to contact my cousin since I had her work number and she didn't. My aunts kids are in their 40's and don't drive so they are unable to get them to appointments (plus they never think of it, just like their dad)

I never really thought is was a HIPAA violation just my cousins husband being the J***A** that he is, he is the type of person to make something out of nothing and run with it!

This family is extremely disfunctional so obviously this played in to the situation. My cousin never even went to the hospital to see her mom while she was hospitalized and she only lives a couple of miles from the hospital! UGH Maybe her husband wouldn't let her go?


195 Posts

You did nothing wrong. You spread the word after you got a call from family members about the situation. This is not a problem. This is no different than any person calling the family after an incident in the family. Your status as an RN is not an issue in this instance.

It would only have been a problem if you only knew she was in the hospital because you you found out during the course of your job, as a nurse.


1,975 Posts

You did nothing wrong and of course there was no HIPAA violation.

You let them know and they still didn't see their mother. Either she's not allowed to visit and under her husband's control OR the relationship is much worse off than you are aware. Not visiting your own mother who has suffered a stroke is pretty telling.

My guess is other family members knew they wouldn't visit and didn't even waste their time and energy calling. Still don't feel bad because you thought you were doing the right things and had honorable intentions.


212 Posts

I don't think you did anything wrong. This is family were talking about here. Your cousin had every right to know what was going on with her mother and you did the right thing by letting her know.

Her husband seems like a total jerk! Your intuition is probably right concerning his attitude towards her family.

Kudos to you for letting her know. Everyone has a right to know what's going on within their family if it concerns a life and death situation IMO.


2,452 Posts

Specializes in ortho, hospice volunteer, psych,.

quit beating yourself up because you didn't do anything wrong. i seem to be a designated passer along of family information and history. whether it's medical hx on who had breast ca or have i received any new pictures of the 8 week old newest arrival in montana or how aunt ____ is really doing, the emails and phone calls are usually directed my way. maybe because my mom was the eldest of 42 cousins in her generation and i'm the next to oldest cousin in my generation, the mantle was passed when my mom became terminally ill and people began to call me for info.

we're spread all around the country but we email individually and in family letter form, use the phone for an elderly great aunt who refuses to even try a computer, quietly b***h and moan and rant to those we're closest to and support each other. we know to avoid telling certain family members about mental health issues such as depression because, "there is none of that in our family and never has been!"

whatta gonna do? if someone tells me something an then says "but if you email or talk to ___, don't say anything" then i don't and i have one aunt who worries about everything that has gone wrong, might or could go wrong. she gets a censored update. somehow it all works -- usually.




37 Posts

Thanks everyone!!!!!

Even though I am feeling bad right now about the entire situation I know I did the right thing!!! If I got a call about a family member in that situation again i would call again in a heartbeat!!!

If the tables were turned and my cousin knew my mom was hospitalized and she didn't tell me if I didn't know I would be FURIOUS!!!!!

Cousin's husband can just like it or lump it!!!!!!

leslie :-D

11,191 Posts

Cousin's husband can just like it or lump it!!!!!!

snuffy, you tell him if he has any concerns, he is more than welcome to talk to us...

if he dares...:devil:


jschut, BSN, RN

2,743 Posts

Be glad your cousin and Aunt are not "on his side"!

I had to call my Dad's sister to let her know he had cancer and was in a Hospice because my step mother didn't. She wasn't even going to tell me.. but I'm a rather pushy old broad and when all I got was, "He's not acting right.", I was there and went to all Dr appointments and such. I think being a nurse helped too, cause I knew the ins and outs of the whole thing and how to "get around" my step mother and her shenanigans. Of course, in one of Dad's more lucid moments, he told the transporter that took him to radiation one day that I was allowed to access ALL medical records and anything else he had was a huge help, cause she was allowed to be a witness for me.

I think what you did was fine, and ol grumpy butt should stuff it.....

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