Worrying about how privacy will be respected and dignity maintained can be very troubling for patients who are currently in or about to enter the hospital setting. Staff are however, obliged to keep these issues in tact and are morally and professionally obligated to protect patients and abide by their rights. They will also try and assist you and support you if needed in order to protect your dignity and uphold your privacy.
Disclosure of Sensitive Information
Staff working in the hospital or other healthcare setting, are obliged to keep all patient information confidential and this includes access to their notes, discussing their care and passing on information. Basically, unless it is in the patient’s best interests, staff are not permitted to discuss or pass on any information about the patient especially to others who are not concerned in their care. The nursing notes kept by the patients bedside should not be accessed without the patients permission unless the patient cannot actively give their consent and the action is deemed necessary to contribute to the patients care. The data protection act contains formal guidelines regarding staff, patients and relatives accessing records without permission from the patient or the person in charge of their care and this includes the passing on of information. Patients can expect phone calls, letters, faxes and conversations to be held in privacy and away from those who are not concerned.
Respect from Others
As a patient you can expect those around you to respect your space and privacy. If you are allocated a bed space you can expect to have a curtain that fully encloses your bed area. This can be pulled round at any time and staff should oblige your request unless they explain that they would prefer it to remain open if you are under observation such as when recovering from an operation. However, this screen should always be pulled round when staff are discussing your care, when clothes or dressings are changed, when examinations are taking place and whenever hygiene needs are being met.
Personal Hygiene and Body Image
Where possible patients will be required to maintain their own hygiene needs and use their own hygienic products unless they are unable to or require some degree of assistance. They are also able to continue with their normal routines and actions unless they interfere with their care or are upsetting or harming those around them. These actions include putting on make-up, wearing jewellery or continuing with religious practices.
If you are physically able and have not had any anaesthesia that may hinder your ability you should be granted access to look after your own toilet and sanitary needs when in hospital. As an able person (even if you are in a wheelchair or need assistance) you should expect access to a private toilet or at least an enclosed cubicle. If you are not happy with the current arrangements you are entitled to complain and request a change of environment which should be granted when possible.
If you are worried about maintaining your privacy whilst in hospital, speak to your healthcare provider or nurse and express your concerns. Most patients are able to manage their own personal needs but are assured that when assistance is needed, it is provided with the utmost confidentiality and sensitivity by staff.