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Reality Unscripted
HIPAA: Knowing Isn’t the Burden--Not Telling Is

I grew up in this town. I go to church here. I work here. My kids go to school here. My extended family lives here. I am well connected. These facts are all wonderful to me most of the time. It does occasionally cause me some difficulties, though. I work at a doctor's office that lots of my friends, family, and acquaintances go to. I know things. Lots and lots of things.

I know who has gained 10 pounds in the last year. I know who is on antidepressants. I know who is pregnant. I know who has cancer, but hasn't told their family. I know who is considering a divorce. It's a lot to know.

Knowing isn't the burden. Not telling is.

I have coffee with three friends every week. They know lots of the same people I do. It seems that on a weekly basis someone's name will come up that I take care of. It will start with someone saying, "Boy, Jane sure has lost a lot of weight recently."

"Yea, she looks great, but she's kind of pale, don't you think?"

On and on it goes. Speculation about what's wrong with poor Jane. With one sentence I could put it all to rest. I know what's going on. She joined Weight Watchers and is doing great. I just sit there, though. They look at me and ask what I think. I smile and say the same thing I always do, "HIPAA."

We all laugh. They know I'm a vault. It's useless to try to get anything out of me. The fun is in the trying. Fortunately, I have one big thing in my favor. All three of them are patients at the clinic, too. If I won't talk about anyone else, they can be sure I won't talk about them either.

How about you? How difficult is it for you to keep things confidential?

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5 Responses to “HIPAA: Knowing Isn’t the Burden–Not Telling Is”

  1. Anne Says:

    I am a NP who works in a small community where I know pretty much everyone. It is absolutely NOT difficult for me to keep quiet. My professional life is not up for any discussion. Personally, when someone asks me in any social situation about private aspects of another person’s life (whether it is health care or otherwise), I suggest that asking the person directly is a respectful thing to do. Anything else is carrying gossip and disrespectful.

  2. Sara Says:

    I am a nursing student. It is really hard to keep quiet about different types of cases I see. It is all so new and exciting, and I want to share with my friends and family the amazing thing I saw today. I struggle with this for sure. I am getting to see things that hardly anyone will see in there lifetime. Any suggestions?

  3. Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN Says:

    I live in So. CA in and around celebrities. There are a lot of things I could tell you about who’s “naughty and nice.” But like any of us….no one is at their best if they or a loved one is ill or facing a health crisis.

    My husband delivered groceries to an area of old Hollywood when we were in college. He could tell me all about his customers and their adventures. We even went to visit some of them especially at holidays.

    A few years later, I worked in home health in much the same neighborhood and I know I saw some of his old customers. But I couldn’t tell my stories. Or take him to visit my patients.

    It was even harder though when I worked home health in my own neighborhood and would run into family members or former patients in the grocery store or mall.

    We didn’t have HIPAA then, but you had to be respectful of people’s privacy.

    It all goes back to treating your patients the way you would want to be treated or have your loved ones treated. Confidentiality is just part of what we do as nurses.

    But boy could we tell tales!!!!

  4. TheCannulator Says:

    We don’t have HIPPA.

    Thank God we don’t have an oveated scaremongering piece of legislation to help us do what we should be doing anyway as professionals.

  5. eskellyrn Says:

    Where do you work that you don’t have HIPPA?

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