Did I ever tell you about the case with the pitbull? Oh wait sorry, confidentiality.
Ooh what about the one with the celebrity… ah damn sorry, confidentiality. Can’t tell you.
Oh oh wait, there’s the one where… oh. Wait. No. Can’t tell you that either.
Working in healthcare can bring about some weird and wonderful stories. I’ve got a few from both my HCA days and my time as a student, and as the mouthy storyteller I am all I want to do is share it with my friends, family, and whoever’s sitting on the bus next to me at the time but I can’t. The NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council, for all you non-nurses out there) has this book of rules and one bit pretty clearly says that patient confidentiality must be upheld no matter how juicy it is (I’m paraphrasing).
To be specific, it says:
5.4 share necessary information with other healthcare professionals and agencies only when the interests of patient safety and public protection override the need for confidentiality
In other words, I could theoretically tell you about an axe wielding murderer targeting lonely singles in my area if I had been taking care of him and he had escaped and the police told me to issue an alert, but short of that I can’t say anything, really. Which sucks cuz I really want to tell you about this one kid…
Oops. Forget I said anything.
You might be thinking “Oh that’s weird, you/people I know have told me stuff” and you’re not wrong. But think about it. How much of the information you’ve been told would be in any way useful for finding them on say, Facebook? If I tell you I met a lady with a massive fear of potatoes, how much of that information can you use to find her Twitter? Or if I give a sad story about a patient who can’t speak English, how would you be able to tell who it is? The key is maintaining the patient’s’ confidentiality, dignity and respect at all times. The NMC has in fact issued a separate book all about conducting oneself on social media and how to tell on people if they’re um, not conducting themselves right.
Sometimes I feel like I’m toeing one hell of a line when I talk. I’ll be chillaxing with my friends and feeling the need to vent about placement and I’ll be halfway through a story when I think to myself “waaaaaaiiiiiit am I destroying patient confidentiality when I say that?” I don’t mention any names or I speak in generalities (someone asked me how I felt about health visiting, I said all babies look like grumpy old men), or I’ll talk about an exchange I had with them as opposed to their condition, but I do think about it at night sometimes before going to sleep: “How can I balance my need to vent with my need to be respectful?” Ultimately it comes down to empathy. How would I feel if someone told someone else about a throwaway conversation we had? If the answer is anything other than “flattered because I am hilarious” or “flattered because I helped someone learn a thing”, then I go on ahead. This means that the people I know and/or love know how often I’ve had to watch Frozen but not about the time where…
Ooops, sorry. Can’t talk about that.