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Tina, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 33167
Experience:  JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
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I was a private duty RN doing immediate post-operative care

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I was a private duty RN doing immediate post-operative care in patients home. I was told by patient that she did not want her family to know she had anesthesia for 3 hours and plastic surgery, she told her family that she had a very minor procedure. She hired me for 3 hours. I left her asleep but she needed to be watched carefully,walked to the bathrom,fed prior to receiving her medications etc. Pt had liposuction and drainage would run down her legs each time she stood up. I spoke to husband before I left. My concern was her safety. Her husband realized my patient had surgery. Patient called me the following day, thanking me for her excellent care but very upset that husband found out she had surgery. He called her a lier, he'll never trust her again etc. She is blaming me for his finding out. Could she sue me for hippa noncompliance? What would happen?
Thank you for contacting our JA team for guidance.

Please let me know what state you were working in. Were you working through an agency as an employee or independent contractor? What did you tell her husband? Do you have professional insurance?


Customer: replied 8 years ago.

I was working as an independent contractor. I have professional liability insurance.

I told the husband: his wife had nausea and was vomiting but I medicated her and she no longer has it. She is unsteady on her feet and need to be walked to the bathroom.

She may have a lot of drainage through her garmet but this is normal. I left guaze pads in the bath room if areas bleeding need to be reinforced.

She hasn't eaten in over 24 hours, except for a few crackers. She needs pain medication in a few hours. She needs to have toast, soup, smoothie prior to receiving her pain medication.

I had set up a medication box with all of her medications for the next seven days. I showed him the box explaining when she receives her next medication. I explained she had to receive her antibiotic after she ate.

At this point he became very annoyed and said to me "you could get in a lot of trouble for

telling me these things, right?

I told him my concern for his wifes safety and ongoing care was my prime responsibility

I also mentioned to him that his wife can call me at anytime.

I have not heard from the surgeon but patients first post op appt. is May 8,2009

Under these circumstances, you were compelled by your professional responsibility to the patient to communicate these things to the person in whose care you were leaving the patient. They could easily argue that you were negligent if you just left the wife in bed unable to care for herself. If she really wanted to hide it from her family, she should have had you there 24/7 until she could care for herself.


I would not worry about a HIPAA violation under these circumstances since you had no choice but to convey the information you did to the husband. However, if they do insist on pursuing this, you should report it to your insurance and keep an independent journal of events.


I am very sorry you find yourself in this position and hope nothing will come of it. You were stuck between a rock and a hard place.


Please let me know if you need additional information.


Best regards,




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Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Tina, if some one does sue you, what would be the usual amount.

My friend is a doctor and he told me his malpractice insurance doesn't cover hippa problems.