Caring for Patients While Respecting Their Privacy: Renewing Our Commitment

Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, MS, FAAN, Sally Millar, RN, MBA, and Christine Griffin, JD



In 1996, HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted into law. This law has had a significant impact on the health care industry including the need for numerous changes in the way we communicate with our patients, their families, and with each other. This law provides rights to patients and safeguards for employees. It affects everyone in a health care setting. Since the days in which the Nightingale Pledge was written, nursing has stressed the importance of confidentiality regarding all patient matters. The current Code of Ethics for Nurses (ANA, 2001) is clear in intent and meaning as it relates to the nurse's role in promoting and advocating for patient's rights related to privacy and confidentiality. For nurses, HIPAA is an endorsement of our previously articulated responsibility to our patients.

Purpose/Goal: To remind nurses of the importance of keeping patient information private. This reminder will come first as HIPAA is reviewed and the implications of this Act for nurses is discussed. The reminder will also come as challenges to maintaining privacy and strategies for promoting privacy are presented.


1. Discuss the implications of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (Public Law 104-191) for nurses.
2. Apply knowledge of HIPAA regulations to health care scenarios.
3. Discuss strategies to promote and protect privacy and confidentiality of patient information in health care settings.


Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, MS, FAAN, is the Senior Vice President for Patient Care and Chief Nurse at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Assistant Professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, Instructor at Harvard Medical School, Visiting Scholar at Boston College, and Senior Associate at The Institute for Nursing Healthcare Leadership in Boston, Massachusetts. Sally Millar, RN, MBA is presently Director of Patient Care Services Informatics at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Sally’s clinical background has included Staff Nurse in the Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care Unit and Head Nurse in the Respiratory/Surgical Intensive Care Unit. Christine Griffin, JD, is a privacy and security project specialist in the Health Information Services Department at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Christine serves as a HIPAA subject matter expert for the hospital’s privacy office and staff. Christine has developed and presented staff HIPAA trainings and directs privacy policy development and implementation.

The planners and author of this CNE activity have disclosed no financial relationships with any commercial companies pertaining to this activity.

Contact Hours: 1.01

Expiration Date: 1/31/2014


Member Price: $0.00
Non-Member Price: $20.00

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