As a licensed nurse, you help people when they are at their most vulnerable. You also have access to some of their most private information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal statute that governs the medical records of patients. HIPAA gives every patient the right to access their records and protect their privacy.
Those working in the medical industry often have legitimate reasons to access someone’s medical records, but some people misuse that access. Could your behavior with medical records potentially affect your licensing?
Privacy violations could affect your career
Depending on the nature of the issue, your use of patient medical records or review of them could lead to disciplinary measures by your employer, the licensing board or the state. Your employer could very well fire you for accessing records you don’t need to do your job or for purely personal reasons — like if your curiosity about a relative’s medical condition gets the better of you.
Examples of inappropriate behavior might include checking a significant other’s record to see if they had certain tests performed or looking into the records of a celebrity who you know visited the facility where you work. The chances are good that a co-worker or even the IT department could discover your actions when you access a record physically or digitally.
If it becomes public knowledge that you misused your access to medical records, that may increase the likelihood of your employer taking more significant punitive action against you. The company that employs you or one of your co-workers could also report you to the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing.
Violations of HIPAA could result in a disciplinary hearing in front of the licensing board. In extreme cases, such allegations might even lead to criminal charges. Treating medical records with respect and defending against all allegations of misconduct can help you protect your nursing license and career.