Thursday, July 17, 2008
Tittle tattle in the corridors: confidentiality and all that::-
This post discusses the issues of confidentiality particularly in relation to blogging.
I am back on board having had a wonderful, much needed, break. It was great to be involved in my first ICM. Although there were some organisational hiccups it was a great experience. Now back to reality and there is plenty to do so not much time for blogging at present. There is an issue I do feel a great need to address however and this is about confidentiality and midwifery practice. This is of course an issue for all health professionals not just midwives. The other issue is around how shared experience contributes to learning within the profession and the value of blogs in facilitating this. I do not pretend to have the answers to how these contradictory issues can be managed but feel that this discussion needs to take place. As bloggers we need to develop some sort of best practice guidance around how to blog about professional issues. My friend and colleague Sarah Stewart has also been blogging about this issues recently.
When we enter the midwifery profession we all sign a confidentiality agreement. We will only share information if it is necessary for the health and wellbeing of the woman or her baby and only to other health professionals involved in their care. This meets the requirements of the Privacy Act 1993. For student midwives to learn from the practice experiences they are having it is necessary that to share and reflect with lecturers. Women who have students working with them are made aware that this may happen. Students in our school have small tutorial groups where they can share their experiences, reflect together and promote safe practice and shared learning.
Despite these safeguards issues around confidentiality arise from time to time. During my career, from time to time, I have heard people talking in the corridors about something that has happened, I may well have been guilty of this myself. Sometimes a complaint is made because someone heard something in the supermarket, or the bank, or wherever about a patient. Blogging takes this illicit sharing of information to a whole new level. No longer is it a whisper in the corridor, it is a trumpet blast to the world. We always should have been aware of how we can properly share information to promote learning without compromising confidentiality but now it is urgent that we get on board with this. We need to be able to share and learn, we also need to protect confidentiality.
As midwives we are involved in the most intimate experiences of a persons life. We need to be trustworthy. We might know things about the woman the no one else knows. I might know the sex of her baby from scan, I might know that she is unsure of the paternity of her child, I might know that she cursed and swore through labour when normally she would never utter these words. Women need to trust us not to share this information with anyone. When other health professionals need to be involved in a woman's care we can share information which is relevant to this situation and only that.
So where does that leave us when we are blogging? How can we share experiences so that we can promote learning? To whom does the experience we are sharing belong? Is it ours to share? What about the other health professionals who may feature in our tales? How do they feel about having their practice exposed in this most public of forums?
I welcome your thoughts on this.
Image: Whispering, Saams photos on flickr.com