Privacy and Confidentiality
As nurses we are required to adhere to the standards and guidelines set forth by the College of Nurses of Ontario. These practices and standards have been implemented in order to support the nurses in providing safe and ethical care to the public. In the assigned case study, Irene is a nurse facing privacy and confidentiality issues. Irene is working in a facility environment where her integrity and professionalism is being constantly challenged. It is important that Irene be an advocate for the patients' right to privacy within the facility and community. It would be easy for Irene to partake in the practice of her colleagues, and easily divulge private information to appease the curiosity of the family and friends of the patient. However, this would not be the most ethical route. Irene encounters many ethical challenges and can be viewed as a pioneer in patient privacy advocacy in the case study. Irene has many challenges affecting her practice; return to a small town "friendly and informal care," inquisitive community members, fax machine privacy issues, and colleagues with different views on ethical practice responsibilities. Irene is concerned with keeping patient privacy and confidentiality. Although, she does work within a small community where most people know one another, it is not okay for her to share patient information. "The relationship is based on trust, respect and intimacy and requires the appropriate use of the power inherent in the care provider's role" (CNO, 2009). By sharing private patient information the patient-nurse relationship is no longer therapeutic in nature. Patients entrust their health information and concerns with the nurse with the expectation that it will be kept confidential and on a need to know basis within the circle of care. (Keatings & Smith, 2010) The patient entrusts that, this very personal information is used solely for their benefit within their plan of care. Irene should also remind her colleagues of the Hippocratic oath, which states "Whatever I see or hear in the lives of my patients, whether in connection with my professional practice or not, which ought not to be spoken of outside, I will keep secret, as considering all such things to be private" (The Hippocratic Oath, 2002). Private thoughts and actions done by patients when nurses care for them in possibly their most vulnerable state should not be shared unless the patient decides to do so. The only exception, which the patient should be advised of, is if the information shared may cause self-harm or harm to others. If harm is indicated, the information must be shared with the health care team and appropriate measures must be taken to ensure safety. Irene also has a concern with confidential laboratory results being faxed to her facility. Her concern is that when the clerical staff receives that information they view the results and can often be overheard conversing about the results of someone they knew. This action is very unprofessional, the clerical personnel are not trained on laboratory values, and therefore do not need to be reviewing the laboratory results. When confidential information is sent via fax, there is often a disclaimer at the bottom of the page, stating that the information is private and intended only for addressee. The clerical personnel are violating the privacy rights of the patient. In this case it is the ethical responsibility of the nursing staff to "intervene if others inappropriately access or disclose personal or health information of person receiving care" (Canadian Nurses Association, 2008, pp.13). Irene and the nursing team should explain to the clerical personnel that this is inappropriate and that actions like this will not be tolerated. Importance should be placed on privacy and confidentiality and the safeguarding of information to maintain a professional relationship (Canadian Nurses Association, 2008, pp.51). As a nurse,...
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