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Is it a HIPAA violation to share my patient's obituary on Facebook?

Nurse Beth   (1,556 Views | 1 Replies)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Writer Innovator Expert Nurse

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

18 Followers; 100 Articles; 233,936 Profile Views; 2,023 Posts

Dear Nurse Beth,

I'm a CNA at a nursing home, and some of my coworkers have shared resident obituaries on Facebook after they passed. I've thought about doing this a few times, especially with those residents I formed a closer bond with, but have always hesitated and decided against it in fear it would be a violation of privacy. My question is - is sharing a resident/patient's obituary on social media a violation of HIPAA?

Dear CNA,

It's not technically a HIPAA violation, especially if the obituary was published in the newspaper. Obituaries typically don't include protected health information (PHI).

Still, it's not a wise decision. Your employer most likely would not sanction this, which could place your job in jeopardy. It could also violate the wishes of the family.

While your co-workers make have been very close to the deceased person, and feel grief when they pass, it's still a business relationship, not a personal friendship.

This is more of a boundary issue that a legal issue, and you are right to pay attention to your inner voice of caution.

Best wishes my friend,

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

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kbrn2002 has 25 years experience as a ADN, RN and specializes in Geriatrics.

3,000 Posts; 29,293 Profile Views

Once the obituary is published in the paper it is a matter of public record so no, it's not a privacy violation to post it. 

But  it still might not be a good idea to post an obituary of a resident on your social media so you are right to question this before you do it.  Look to your management team on guidance for this before you post.  Even if a member of the management team posts a copy of a resident obituary on their own social media I'd still ask if it's OK before doing it yourself.   At the very least asking before posting will show management you have a level of maturity and the professionalism that will put you on their radar in a positive light.

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