Lost job over HIPAA violation

Posted
by MInurse19 MInurse19 (New) New Nurse

I was terminated from my job for a HIPAA violation. Basically I looked in the chat of a patient that a CPR was called overhead for as I worked in ICU and was up for admission so it was likely this patient would come to me. This is something I have seen many others do as well. After the pt did not come to my unit I re opened the chart just to see what the outcome had been (stupid move on my part I know, and I guess in my mind I figured I had already been in the chart once so what did it matter?) Anyways the patient did not survive and it ended up becoming a sentinel event. The hospital of course audited this patients chart and began investigating anyone who accessed the chart (myself included). I knew they were meeting yesterday and was a wreck at work all day. After my shift, I was called to go to HR where they terminated my employment for violation of HIPAA regulations. My previous employer said they would not disclose that information to potential future employers, but that they were required to report it to the State Board. What can I expect to happen? This is my first offense, and I have a spotless license up until now. Will I lose my license over this? Is it even worth it to start looking for jobs right away? I am physically sick over this whole situation, I have not been able to eat in 2 days, and now I cannot stop crying.

Please no criticism, I have been beating myself up over this enough. I know what I did was wrong and stupid and I deserve what happened. I just need to know where I go from here.

everchangingRN

everchangingRN, ASN, BSN, MSN

Specializes in All. Has 20 years experience. 37 Posts

MINurse,

Are you in Michigan? Is that the first part of your handle? Or does that stand for MICU. I just ask to see if you can look on the board web site for info?

MInurse19

MInurse19

2 Posts

Yes I am in MI, I was trying to look earlier without much success but perhaps was not looking in the right places. I will look again.

TriciaJ, RN

Specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory. Has 41 years experience. 4,292 Posts

I'm really sorry this happened to you. I get that your interest in the chart was not salacious; you were trying to familiarize yourself with a patient you expected to care for. That might have held up but of course your goose was cooked with you accessed the chart a second time.

Unfortunately, they probably had already made it clear they had a zero-tolerance policy so there was nothing more to be done. I very much doubt you will lose your license over this. Maybe a reprimand.

I get that it's horribly stressful now. Do you have professional Liability Insurance? If you do, this would be the time to call them. I do predict that a year from now you'll be happliy working at your new job and this will have just been a horrible, but learning experience. Hang in there.

iluvivt

iluvivt, BSN, RN

Specializes in Infusion Nursing, Home Health Infusion. Has 32 years experience. 2,773 Posts

I think its absolutely awful of them to fire you for this. They could have just given you a verbal or written warning because really what harm came to the patient.You know what is going to happen to you now..... A Big Nothing. You will not lose your license over this either as Nursing Boards have much bigger fish to fry. Learn from it and move one and please stop stressing because it's not necessary.

guest974915

guest974915

275 Posts

Do you have any recourse? Were you allowed to offer an explanation? I realize the implications of HIPAA, but I'm not convinced you crossed a line. Personally, I've worked CVOR and have have been guilty of the same action; when it was likely that I would receive a critically care patient, would have very little time to plan care, and that delays could translate to negative outcomes "time is muscle". The experts say the defining question is; "did you need to access the information to do your job? I say 'yes'

neuron

neuron

Has 5 years experience. 547 Posts

Patient information is important, but I believe the hospital should be liable for any nurse who access anyone's chart and that *they* be held responsible for allowing anyone access to patients chart. You did not hurt the patient.

The nurse has a legal responsibility to take care of the patient.

Edited by fibroblast

JadedCPN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Float, PICU, NICU. Has 16 years experience. 1,476 Posts

5 hours ago, fibroblast said:

Patient information is important, but I believe the hospital should be liable for any nurse who access anyone's chart and that *they* be held responsible for allowing anyone access to patients chart. You did not hurt the patient.

The nurse has a legal responsibility to take care of the patient.

Please help me understand this logic? Why should the hospital be held accountable for allowing a nurse to access a patient's chart?

Davey Do

Specializes in Psych (25 years), Medical (15 years). Has 43 years experience. 1 Article; 10,092 Posts

7 hours ago, JadedCPN said:

Please help me understand this logic?

Yeah, this is way outside of my realm of understanding.

I access potential patients medical info all the time for continuity of care and in order to streamline the admission process.

In my way of thinking which I take full responsibility for, a lot of this HIPAA stuff sucks rocks.

I am behind patient confidentiality 100% but if healthcare workers are being terminated for just accessing a potential patient's chart, then I'm through with this BS. I am really sorry this happened to you, MInurse.

It seems the HIPAA philosophy is interpreted as, "If there is a potential to breach confidentiality, then confidentiality is breached" like if you own a handgun, then you are a murderer.

Sheesh!

klone, MSN, RN

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 16 years experience. 14,296 Posts

It likely wasn't the first access that got you in trouble. It was the second access, due to idle curiosity about the patient's outcome. At that point, you knew you were not going to be getting the patient, so there was no "need to know."

Where I've worked in the past, intent matters. If it was for a malicious purpose, it would be automatic term. For a case such as yours, it would be a suspension.

Oldmahubbard

Oldmahubbard

1,487 Posts

Firing an otherwise good employee over this seems excessive to me.

JKL33

6,321 Posts

1 hour ago, Davey Do said:

In my way of thinking which I take full responsibility for, a lot of this HIPAA stuff sucks rocks.

In the various ways it is leveraged, yes it does.

[Lengthy rant erased!]

Let's be real - the fact that there was a sentinel event associated with the case in question is not coincidental to the handling of this nurse.