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Maintaining privacy and confidentiality for patients is a fundamental duty of care as a nurse. It is clearly stated that “a nurse must treat personal information obtained in a professional capacity as confidential” (ANMC, 2003, pg. 4). Although the terms privacy and confidentiality are often interchanged, they should be distinguished.
Privacy refers to one’s ownership of one’s body or information about one’s self, whereas confidentiality refers specifically to limits upon private information revealed in confidence, as a responsible promise that the information will not be revealed to others (Kerridge et al. , 1998). It is essential that the data will be used and reported in such a way that no one is able to identify the source (Behi & Nolan, 1995).
It is important to uphold both the privacy and confidentiality of patients whilst in nursing care to protect clients against the morally harmful consequences that can occur when unconsented disclosures are made (Crisp & Taylor, 2005). For example, a client’s newly diagnosed HB positive status could result in the client being rejected by family and friends and hence left without social support at a time when most needed. The Privacy Act 1988 requires Commonwealth agencies to conform to a set of Information Privacy Principles when dealing with personal information.
State and territory legislation also places similar obligations on their respective agencies, which includes hospitals (Crisp & Taylor, 2005). At common law, there are expectations that contracts will contain a confidentiality clause and tort will include a duty of confidentiality (Crisp & Taylor, 2005). Under most circumstances information gained in the professional-client relationship should not be disclosed, however there is an exception if there is an overriding legal reason that disclosure should be made.
For instance, this occurs where such disclosures help prevent harm to innocent others (Crisp & Taylor, 2005), such as in a case that a client disclosed that he intended to kill someone he disliked. In conclusion, protecting privacy and confidentiality for patients is essential in the field of nursing, both morally and legally, as this ensures that the patients’ well-being are not jeopardized by the unwarranted disclosure of such confidential material. Reference 1.
Australian Nursing &Midwifery Council. (2003). Code of Professional Conduct for Nurses in Australia. 2. Behi R. &Nolan M. (1995). Ethical issues in research. British Journal of Nursing. 4, 12, 712-716. 3. Crisp J. &Taylor C. (2005). Potter &Perry’s fundamentals of Nursing 2nd Edition. Sydney: Elsevier Australia Limited. 4. Kerridge I. , Lowe M. &McPhee J. (1998). Ethics and law for the health professions. Katoomba, N. S. W. : Social Science Press. 5. The Privacy Act 1988.