A: Tell Sally to avoid John because he looks like trouble.
That's not correct. Nurses have access to privileged and confidential information, but never use this information to the disadvantage of clients. Telling Sally to avoid John may prompt her to ask why you don't seem to like him.
B: Tell Sally he was a client, and might be very sick.
That's not correct. To use any information gained about a client from your professional practice in your personal life, without client consent or a legal obligation to do so because there is a substantial risk of significant harm to the health or safety of the client or others, fails to meet your legal, ethical and professional responsibilities as a nurse. As John has not acknowledged you, you would treat him as any other person that you met for the first time.
C: Tell Sally nothing.
That's correct! Nurses safeguard personal and health information learned in the context of the nurse client relationship and disclose this information (outside of the health care team) only with client consent or when there is a specific ethical or legal obligation to do so. (See Privacy and Confidentiality Practice Standard).
D: Tell Sally you're tired and want to head home.
Maybe. This is a possibility but it may raise more questions for you with Sally. You are also allowing your knowledge of John's medical history to influence your actions, which is not appropriate.
Dec. 7, 2018
Thank you to everyone who took the time to send us feedback on part 1 of this case study. While the responses were overwhelmingly positive, we did hear from one reader who was concerned that describing a client with bipolar disorder in this context could be interpreted as stigmatizing people with mental health challenges. This was not our intent, and we have edited the case to avoid any misinterpretation.
We always appreciate hearing from nurses, so if you have thoughts on anything you see on the website or in the newsletters, don't hesitate to
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