New nurse tips: HIPAA & Privacy. Adhering to patient privacy is a major rule we follow as nurses. When you are first starting out as a nurse, you may be confused on what you are allowed to share with others regarding your patient and who you can tell. In nursing school, you should have heard of HIPAA. I remember as a student hearing about it and would constantly hear the phrase “Oh, that’s a HIPAA violation” which meant to me that someone was breaking a rule and could get into trouble.
In this article, I am going to talk about:
What is HIPAA?
How nurses follow HIPAA on the job?
Certain situations you may encounter as a new nurse that may confuse you on “is this a HIPAA violation?”
Tips on how to make sure you are ensuring patient privacy
What in the world is HIPAA?
How do you ensure you follow it? HIPAA is short for “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act” and it has many parts to it. However, as nurses the part we are most concerned about is the privacy section. In a nutshell, as healthcare providers we must take precautions in protecting a patient’s healthcare information.
How do we follow HIPAA on the job?
There are many ways we do it, and the hospitals we work in have ways to help us do it. For instances, most facilities on each unit have shred bins where all patient information is shredded. I always stress to my students to never take home a nursing report sheet or any patient information at the end of their shift. Always shred it!
Another way is by always placing a patient’s chart in secure a location when not in use, turning off or locking our screens when charting electronically, not talking to other patients about a specific patient on the unit, and only releasing patient information to designated individuals etc.
Situations you may encounter that will test you on Patient Privacy
In nursing school, you are not really taught “real world” case scenarios on how to deal with protecting patient information. Quickly, as a new nurse you will be tested by family members, staff, and other people who have the intention of obtaining information about a patient, and as the nurse you will have to recognize this so you don’t violate patient privacy.
Let me explain:
Numerous times, especially as a new nurse, I would receive random phone calls or be approached by individuals claiming to be a family member or a “concerned” neighbor that wanted information on a patient. Some of these people were very clever and tried to use persuasive language to convince me that they were allowed access to the patient’s health record.
So, new nurses and nursing students, always be on guard and listen to your gut. Tip for handling this is to always give the same response of: “Sorry, but I cannot give that information out”, especially anytime you are in doubt.
Another occasion that absolutely shocked me was when I found a nurse from another floor snooping through a chart outside a patient’s room. When I approached the nurse and asked her what she was doing, she said “Oh, this is my brother.”
I immediately removed the chart from her possession and told her she was not allowed to violate her brother privacy by looking through his chart and that she wasn’t authorized to look at his information. She became disgruntled and scoffed at me and said “I work here”. It turns out she and her brother was estranged and she was being nosy.
So, remember to always be discerning.
How can you know if you are allowed to give out patient information to someone?
On admission, the patient will fill out a form (we call it a VIP form) that has listed individuals’ names that are allowed to receive patient information. These individuals are given a special code and when they call or approach you all they have to do is give you the code and provide proof of who they are and you can give that information out.
Now regarding staff, only the healthcare team members who are participating in a patient’s care are allowed to access information. However, they are only able to access patient’s information that helps them do their job.
Tips on How to Protect Patient Privacy
- Dispose of papers appropriately! Always shred any patient information; never dispose of it in a trash can. In addition, never take home patient information or store it in your work locker.
- Ask the patient! Anytime you are concerned about releasing any information about a patient to a family member or friend always ask the patient. Many times a patient by request will tell you to explain what is going on with their hospital stay to a family member or friend. In your are unable to ask the patient, don’t release any information.
- Always be on guard! Beware of people trying to “pull the wool” over your eyes and trick you into releasing information about a patient. If you are unsure or feel something isn’t right, simply decline to release any information until you investigate the matter further.
- Don’t be tempted to share information about an “interesting” patient to another nurse! If a nurse on your unit is not participating in caring for your patient, you can’t tell them “interesting” facts about your patient.
Video on HIPAA and Patient Privacy