28 July 2018 (Saturday) - Confidentiality


(An extract from my other blog – the original post on Facebook has since been deleted)

At tea break I saw something on my phone's Facebook app which I thought was rather sad. I spent much of the rest of the day following the post and thinking about it.
I follow several work-related Facebook groups because I find I can learn a *lot* from other people's experiences. From time to time I've shared various experiences myself on such sites, and many people have commented favourably. However this morning there was consternation on the New Medical Laboratory Science Facebook group.
During the week I saw a case study posted up in which the patient's name was just about visible. Someone in America had photographed a lab report and had tried to obscure the patient information with thick black marker pen. But she hadn't realised that the camera flash she'd used had made the original writing on the paper visible; specifically the patient's name. (That's why I produce my case studies as word documents with made-up patient names.)
On realising her error, the person who'd posted the offending picture immediately removed it, but not before some rather small-minded nasty person did a little research, found out exactly who it was who'd made the error, and reported her to her employers for a breach of patient confidentiality. She was promptly sacked.

OK - patient confidentiality had been breached. That is one of the worst things a hospital worker can do. When working in a hospital you find yourself privy to all sorts of confidential information, and keeping your mouth shut is a major part of the job. But this case wasn't a deliberate breach of confidentiality. It was an honest mistake made in an effort to share knowledge and experience.  
I've spent much of today reflecting on this episode. Had I been her employer, having been formally told of the incident I would have had to be seen to do *something* - I would have taken her into an office, closed the door, and given her a telling-off. It was clear she'd realised her mistake - and it was an honest mistake. A quiet word, probably a few tears, and all that would have been the end of it. However her employer saw fit to sack her for what was a simple oversight. Was that *really* necessary?
And now I'm pondering on what I share. Over the years I have shared much of my CPD blog to various professional groups. Should I stop doing so? And if I stop sharing interesting cases will others do likewise? How can we learn if not from the experiences of others?

I can't help but wonder who was it that reported this poor woman.  Whoever it was must have been a fellow blood-tester; all of the posts on that Facebook group are rather technical and frankly meaningless to anyone who doesn't have post-graduate qualifications in blood testing.
I *really* want to know what possessed them to be so nasty to a colleague. Did they have any idea of the consequences of their action? Do they subscribe to the naive notion that everything in life is a learning experience and people won't be victimised for errors? (not that I'm at all bitter here). Or do they just delight in being able to do someone a bad turn?
Reading some of the follow-up posts on that Facebook group was an eye-opener. There were some *really* nasty comment being made.

"My Boy TM" tells me I should spend less time on social media because of all this sort of nastiness. I try to rise above it. Sometimes it is difficult to do so…

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