Nurses are at the frontline in assisting patients who have been inflicted with injury or illness. This role comes with numerous responsibilities in terms of providing the highest standards of care. Importantly, those in the medical field also have a legal duty to protect the privacy of those who they treat. Typically, this is referred to as patient confidentiality.
Why is patient confidentiality so important? And what are the potential consequences for nurses if they breach the privacy rights of patients?
Medicine is founded upon trust
Those who require medical care bestow a great amount of trust in those best placed to look after them. Some patients spend significant periods of time in healthcare facilities during lengthy recovery periods. Thus, medical professionals and nurses may be their main sources of support.
Personal health information, as well as details about conditions, should only be discussed among those who are directly involved in treating a patient. Any unauthorized leak in information breaks the trust that has been instilled into a medical team. Ultimately, this could influence outsiders and make them reluctant to receive necessary treatment, due to the fear of their personal information being shared.
Privacy breaches could have legal consequences
The law treats patient confidentiality in California very seriously. Breaches in the ethical and legal duties to uphold privacy can result in significant penalties. By sharing information about a patient, a nurse could place their professional license and career in jeopardy. In more severe cases, breaching confidentiality can result in fines being imposed as well as other legal punishments.
As a professional nurse, your license is pivotal and you should do everything to protect it. If you are facing allegations of a breach in patient confidentiality that means your license is at risk, you should explore all of the legal options open to you.