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General

Maintaining Confidentiality is a Must for Nursing Assistants

Working in the health care industry, nurse assistants in common with registered nurses, doctors, anesthetists, specialists, and administration staff are exposed to confidential information of patients every day. By law this information belongs to the patient and cannot be shared with unauthorized people without specific permission of the patient or their guardian, which must in many cases be given in writing.

A patient’s medical records and other information are considered private and personal and can only be shared without a patient’s consent when there is a compelling legal reason to do so, such as when a crime has been committed and DNA swabs, alcohol readings or other evidence is required. Nurse assistants need to follow all of the procedures and protocols as well, and can be held liable for breach of patient confidentiality if they don’t.

One of the dangers of patient information leaking in a medical facility relates to the confidence of other patient’s that their own information will be protected. Just as serious, if a patient is suffering from a communicable disease and is being kept apart from other patients to prevent spreading of the disease, disclosure of this information could result in increased workload as other patients demand relocation.

Considered a basic human right, private information is held confidential to protect the person from ridicule, unfair treatment, and the simple expediency if giving them some privacy in their lives. A patient suffering from a sexually transmitted disease for example is protected under law from discrimination, but in practice the disclosure of the diagnosis and treatment plan may cause financial disadvantage to them, unfair treatment, or embarrassment. The nurse assistant who discloses this information seriously compromises their ongoing employment and may face legal action.

Proper care of a patient’s confidential information will be specified in any contract of employment, and means that a patient’s chart cannot be shown to visitors or other people who enter the ward. Even if the nurse assistant doesn’t directly divulge information must take action by reporting the infraction to management. This applies to verbal disclosure of patient information as well.

Disclosure of a patient’s private information is a serious violation of the nurse assistant code of conduct, and the state board of registration may revoke the license to work if discovered, leading to dismissal by the employer and the nurse assistant being banned from working in any hospital or medical center for life. All in all maintaining patient confidentiality should be a primary consideration of the nurse assistant, and all breaches immediately reported to minimize the possibility of being dismissed and struck off the state register.

In addition to the nurse assistant facing personal consequences for disclosure of patient information, the employer can also be held liable and fined if a court of law finds the organization to have been responsible for the breach. A suit against the employer will often occur alongside a suit against the nurse assistant. Unless the employer’s legal team has agreed to defend the nurse assistant, it can be assumed that all legal fees will have to be paid for by the nurse assistant.

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