As a nurse, you have access to intimate details about a patient and their medical history, known as Protected Health Information (PHI). A failure to protect this information is a serious offense under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Breaching that trust could result in you facing a hearing with the California Board of Registered Nurses (BRN).
Some PHI violations have resulted in multi-million dollar fines for the institutions at fault and jail time for those involved. However, most PHI violations that nurses themselves make are less severe and often done unwittingly. Think carefully before sharing any information about a client. Consider whom you are sharing it with and how much they need to know.
Getting home from work and posting on social media about your day at work could land you in trouble if you give away information about a patient. Even a photo of you and the patient could lead to problems. Giving a colleague more details than they strictly need to know about a patient could also breach regulations.
Be careful how you store any PHI. Your hospital should have systems in place to provide secure storage. Carelessness could allow someone who has no right to the information to access it. For instance, if you leave a patient folder on a desk and forget about it, that may be a reason for the BRN to charge you.
If the California BRN cite you for an alleged HIPAA violation, remember how hard you worked to get your nursing license. Hiring an attorney with experience of defending nursing licenses will improve your chances of emerging with your license intact.