About Anonymity, Confidentiality, and Fear

I wrote a post a few days ago about the family member of a patient threatening to report a colleague at another hospital to the College of Nurses of Ontario. In response, I received an email from a nurse in British Columbia who deleted her entire blog when it became apparent she had readers from government domains, including the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia. She writes (I quote with permission):

Even though I have nothing incriminating on my blog, because I was aware of the “small world” thing that is Canada…..I didn’t trust  what I was seeing.   Perhaps I am paranoid.  Perhaps all it was, was someone interested in what I blogged about (some of the references were papers drawn up by the government itself)…..but since I value my income….and know what the CRNBC is capable of – witch hunting…..and if they ever decided to haul me in or whatever……I decided I would leave nothing to chance and deleted everything.   Just wanted to let you know – be very wary of who is doing what out there……  I don’t trust anyone out there in the government – or any governing body……and in my 30 years plus of nursing……I have seen a lot of what they can do…..

It is sad and disheartening to see yet another nurse-blogger take a dive because of feared retribution from someone in authority. Even sadder when our professional regulatory bodies — with some justice, I’m afraid — are viewed by the frontline as The Enemy. Is it good public policy when nurses self-censor themselves because they fear losing their licences?

I also appreciate the concern expressed in the email. I am the Queen of Paranoia myself. Rest assured, I have been very diligent in applying the principles outlined in my disclaimer. I am resolutely anonymous. I can count on one hand and have fingers to spare the number of people who know my true identity. And, I figured out a little while ago — like, I think, most health care bloggers eventually do — that the stories I share with you about my experiences in the Emergency Department aren’t actually about working in a hospital: they concern human beings, the good, the bad, and the funny — especially the funny. (I’m looking at you, Dr. Weanus.)

The point being, the importance isn’t in the details but in the narrative, the exposition of the human condition. So a lot gets changed, which protects patients (and myself) — but the essence always remains. I want cover my butt, you see, and continue to regale you with tales from the Other Side of the Bed Pan.

So I’m going to carry onwards and upwards, more fool me. Where angel fear to tread, and so on.

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  1. #1 by atyourcervix on Friday 23 July 2010 - 0938

    Why do we allow ourselves (as nurses) be so afraid of retribution when it comes and posting on blogs? I have to say that I can count on one hand, with fingers to spare, as to who can connect the real me with my blog identity. I know that, for me, I am the breadwinner in my family, so if I were to lose my job, we lose everything. But yet, I have the need to write out and publish my thoughts, fears, frustrations, hopes, dreams, aspirations, etc.

  2. #2 by Natrice Rese on Friday 23 July 2010 - 0944

    Dont stop sharing your stories. They are fascinating and are also funny and heart felt. If we all stop talking then the world will be a worse place. I value your sense of right and wrong, your humour and your obvious passion for your patients. Carry on Florence Nightingale

  3. #3 by NNR on Friday 23 July 2010 - 1047

    I keep posting about this too…fear fear fear, paranoia paranoia paranoia. I have a large dose of it myself. It’s getting out of hand. Thanks for your post.

  4. #4 by wilomis on Friday 23 July 2010 - 1917

    This was one of the reason I chose illustration my stories and typically change sex and race of the patient. Fake names are also fun to think of. But I can understand the reasons for fear. This blog thing is fun, but jobs are essential to our survival.

  5. #5 by Cartoon Character on Saturday 24 July 2010 - 0813

    I only have ONE person who knows about my blog and my identity… Like T.E.B. I stayed within the Privacy Law guidelines. I also did not blog on my daily patient contacts or any in the near past (read: last 30 years). Any blogs entries were very general. Mostly subjects of nursing interest and Just Life in General. Yet, there are employers out there who want their employees to have opinions athat align with their reputation – in other words – “don’t associate our name with your words if it isn’t in line with our policy or if it causes any members of the public to be upset”. I know for a fact that the Feds have sent out a warning to their employees – prison workers/RNs about what they post. I work for an employer who can easily identify who I am with even the slight mention of my GENERAL work – my job is so specific – there are only 4 of us, and one is a guy….so I don’t talk about anything from work. I know I have never blogged anything that would have me lose my license – but I worry about the repercussions of how miserable they could make my life, and how I don’t need that kind of stress at the end of my career. I do, however, intend on starting up my blog again when I retire.

  6. #6 by Kalanna on Saturday 24 July 2010 - 0942

    This all makes me so sad. Is there really no way for a nurse to blog and share stories *with* her real name? Some nurses go on to publish books with story upon story and I’m sure that all of their patients are protected.

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