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Career Coach

Privacy and Confidentiality

Published October 16, 2013 3:16 PM by Renee Dahring
I don't know about you, but there isn't a day that goes by when I don't have some sort of umm....interesting experience at work. I understand how awfully tempting it is to jump on Facebook or Twitter and share the events of my day with all 100+ or so of my closest "friends". It's so very rewarding to watch a post collect "likes" and snarky remarks, isn't it? 

Periodically I feel the need to remind all of you to use caution when posting on social media. I'm sure you have all heard the warnings about how employers are Googling applicants to see what they have been up to online, but did you know that what you post might get you into some hot water (and by hot water I mean fired) with your current employer? 

Posting a heartwarming or funny story about a patient might seem harmless enough but all it takes is for someone to recognize either themselves or someone they know in your post and BINGO! You have just violated patient confidentiality. Buh-bye. Oh, and if losing your job isn't bad enough, it's possible for you to be sued, too. 

Ok, so that covers social media, but there are other ways you to get in trouble on the internet too. Beware the "most interesting patient" submissions. Often popular blogs or websites that cater to health professionals will ask you to submit a case study or encounter as part of a contest or promotion. Or maybe you are responding to a case study with an example of your own. Sounds innocent doesn't it? Actually, the risk of "outing" a particular patient in this instance might be even greater since your colleagues and/or employer might be also visiting the same website. 

These contests and forums are great learning experiences, but they make the recruiter in me a little nervous and I advise you to exercise some caution if you decide to contribute. Anytime you are relating a story about a current or former patient you should alter or change enough of the details and identifying characteristics to be sure that no one will recognize the identity of your patient. 

And don't be lulled into thinking that any website or social media can be "private". Facebook has recently announced changes that are going to make all your posts more public regardless of your settings. Even information on so-called secure and password protected members-only forums or paid journal sites can be vulnerable. Firewalls can malfunction and data can be left exposed. Sharing can easily occur by using the cut and paste feature. Next thing you know your story has made its way onto someone's blog or Facebook status.   

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    Occupation: Nurse Practitioners and NP Recruiters
    Setting: correctional healthcare/career consulting/teaching
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