Safeguarding your patients’ privacy and their personal health information is crucial for establishing and maintaining a therapeutic nurse-client relationship. If a patient’s privacy is breached, they may become emotionally distressed and begin to mistrust the nurses caring for them.
Patients need to feel confident that the information they share with their health care team will always be kept confidential and secure. One way you can protect patients' personal health information is to be diligent about signing out of a computer or device after viewing digital patient records.
Make logging off a computer or device a habit. Additionally, it is important to reflect on other ways you can ensure your patients’ records are protected, no matter the format. Consider:
What policies and procedures does my workplace have in place to ensure patients’ personal health information is protected?
Do I need a refresher on my workplace’s policies?
How can I remind myself to always log off a device I use?
Nurses and employers also have a shared responsibility to create practice environments that safeguard personal health information. Talk to your colleagues and employer about ways you can work together to develop policies and procedures that ensure the confidentiality of patient information.
The new Code of Conduct states that nurses must act with integrity to maintain patient trust (principle 5), and that nurses protect the privacy and confidentiality of patients’ personal health information (principle 5.1). Whether you’re viewing paper or digital records, your accountability to your patients is the same: you must protect the privacy and confidentiality of their personal health information.
For more information on how you can protect patients’ personal health information, please see the Confidentiality and Privacy—Personal Health Information practice standard.