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May 29, 2007

Be Careful What You Say

Even the most innocent conversations can be fraught with trouble. Say for example, I have two long-standing clients who I discover know each other through social activities. "You mean you do such-and-such? I know somebody who does that. Do you know so-and-so?"

"Why yes I do. Are they your client?"

"Um, well, yes," I say as I realize I've just begun to slide down the slippery slope of confidentiality breach.

According to the Learning and Teaching Support Network the following outlines breach of confidentiality:

Disclosure to others
Disclosure of information about an individual to others will constitute a breach of confidentiality only if that information was previously unknown to the recipient. Confidentiality applies to personal information.[3] General information may be disclosed without breaching confidentiality.

The breach here occurred when it was disclosed that the client receives massage from me. It may not seem like such a bad breach, but it gets worse.

The session ends and I pick up my calls as my client dresses. That other person, who happens to be the client right behind my first one, cancels with short notice. Everybody knows my policy requiring cancellation with 24-hour notice. My first client recognizes the name I am crossing out of my book (hide your book from prying eyes, if possible!!).

Two weeks later, my other client who has finally been able make another appointment comes in. They have a story to tell me about how my client (the one from the original day) confronted them about canceling their appointment with short notice. I waived my payment policy in this case because my client had a legitimate excuse--family medical emergency--these things are, after all, a judgment call.

While I appreciate my clients' protectiveness regarding fair treatment, their actions were inexcusable. How should such vigilante justice be handled? I told the client to disregard what their peer said to them, and that I understood their reasons for the cancellation. But that doesn't address the fact that I let the privacy genie out of the bottle. Even though I've been practicing for 7 or 8 years, I'm obviously not perfect and still have new things to learn every day. I pass this along to you, my readers, so that you too can learn from my mistakes.

For more information about ethics and privacy issues, consult Nina McIntosh's book The Educated Heart: Professional Guidelines for Massage Therapists, Bodyworkers and Movement Teachers. Also check out Ethics for Massage Therapists by Terrie Yardley-Nohr.

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Posted by linda at May 29, 2007 7:50 AM

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