Reader fired for reading patient records
Hi Ronnie Ann. I got myself into a predicament and need your advice. Until yesterday, I worked in the office at a healthcare facility. But I got fired for reading patient records. Here’s the thing … I was given access to both the office manager’s and the administrator’s passwords as part of my job. And we were actually recommended to read patient charts to keep abreast of things.
I only work part time and on my days off I would read patient records, which is accessible online (kind of a dumb setup if you ask me). Anyway, I didn’t know that reading patient records is a serious offense. And so I was fired for doing that.
How do I answer the job interview question why was I fired from my previous job? I hate that I’m going to have this stigma attached to me. But I honestly had no clue that this was against the health regulations. (And we were encouraged to read records.)
I had no previous training in the medical field. Also some of my current training went by the wayside because I was only part time. And they initially hired me to work the weekend.
You were a great help to me last time I asked for help. And so I hope you can help me again. I’m sorry to bother you once more. But I would be extremely grateful for any advice would be extremely grateful. I can’t seem to find any help online.
HIPAA, reading patient records, and hope
I’m so sorry you’re going through this. While I wish I could make this all go away for you, there are a few things I’d like to explain first. But most of all … hang in there. At one point or another, we all do things we wish we could take back. You’ll be ok.
First, this is a lesson you will remember a long time. And that’s a useful thing in case you ever work in a hospital or health facility again. (I’ll explain in a second.) But please don’t worry. As you create new work experience to offer in its place, the stigma will eventually fade into the distant past.
HIPAA law as it relates to patient records
There is a Federal law called HIPAA that, among other things, protects the privacy of our health records. And that includes reading patient records. Most major computer systems are available online now, JoJo. But the protection is that you need a secure password to get in.
Quite honestly, if the nursing home were operating from a security-first standpoint, you should have been given limited access. And NOT passwords assigned to others. That’s a mistake on them. They know reading patient records for entertainment or other non-medical needs is a big no-no!
These records are private. And no one except people directly concerned with treatment should be reading them. Personally, I would be appalled if I thought just anyone was reading my health records in their spare time! (I just want you to really understand what happened here.)
No question this company didn’t handle security as well as they could have. But considering the position you held there, reading private personal patient records while off duty is simply not ok. If you really get that and learn from it, I think this is a lesson that will serve you well for the rest of your career.
So where do you go from here?
All that said … I don’t want you to beat yourself up for reading patient records. Or feel bad. You really didn’t know. And we all make mistakes. Especially ones we weren’t properly advised about, as in your case. And we all move on. Lord knows I’ve screwed up so many times I can’t count it on my fingers!
Maybe someone else wants to chime in here. But for me the best way to handle this is by really knowing in your heart you’re a good employee. And that you will do your best for your next employer. Maybe even try harder as a result of lessons learned.
Some interview logic (and mindset) to help
In the interview, all I would say when asked is something like “I made a mistake. And I learned from it.” If you like, you can add that you know mistakes occasionally happen. But you believe that the best thing we can do is learn from them. And then work extra hard never to let it happen again!
And hopefully you seal the deal by sincerely looking them in the eyes as you tell them you intend to work double hard to shine in this job. Maybe even give them another example from a job or elsewhere where you turned a mistake into something really good.
Real-life work stories help,
Especially if they end on a positive note.
And by being honest — again, without going into details — that may also help when they do reference checking. A good employer will like that you didn’t lie. But your approach, leaving them with s strong and positive impression, is really your strongest interview tool.
A few last thoughts
I have every faith you’ll be OK, JoJo. Don’t hold anger or resentment about all this. Least of all toward yourself. That can show in interviews and when networking.
Brush yourself off. And go find that next job. Each mistake makes us stronger. Just show the most positive, pleasant, fully-engaged side of yourself when you interview and you’ll get another chance.
[Post updated 2020]V
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To The Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker.
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