Falsely Accused Of HIPPA Violation

Question:

A previous employee called my office manager and told her I had called her husband and had given him information that was in her chart. I requested my manager get into the EMR and see that I never accessed her chart. She did and found I never had, but now I fear for my job. NH is an “at will” state.

Signed,

Fear For Job


Answer:

DearĀ Fear For Job:

Your anxiety was understandable during being falsely accused and after that fear for your job is understandable. You are right that in an at-will state you can be fired for good reason or no reason. So what can you do to cope with this worry? Apparently you’ve done about all you might do by assertively requesting an investigation that proved you did not access and therefore dispelled or at least discounted the accusation that you had disclosed confidential information. From here, it seems you’ve done the best you might do. Can this continue to worry you? To be sure, false accusations do not disappear from your mind. Can they reappear from time to time? Can this false accusation lead you to misinterpret little things that surface as they do in the course of business as a possible cause for you to be fired? Yes, Yes. Yes. We have memories that can color innocent events dark. You can make this event even after you have been exonerated a topic of conversation with coworkers, your manager, friends and family. In short you can be obsessed with it.

If the problem would be that you had an uncontrollable temper, you could be sent to anger management. There a stern and/or empathic counselor might help you to manage those unhealthy impulses. But your worry is not so serious; however, freeing your self of the anxiety expressed in your question might requires the same kind of rigor and self-talk as is required to control one’s anger. Managing not to allow this unhappy event to rule your mind likely is not a matter of simply saying, “I will never think of it again.” To put something out of your mind is not simply saying that you will never think of it again anymore than it would be possible for you not to bring to mind a white horse if someone orders you never to think of it again.

This is a phenomenon that you probably are already well aware. You probably also know intellectually that focusing attention on more important matters such as adding value to your company is a more effective way to cope with the anxiety of loss of a job. I recommend that you focus on that: busy you mind by finding ways to cut waste; wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy and ways of enhancing the quality of your operations. Would not posting cutting waste and enhancing value in front of your work station focus your mind on that and drive away negatives that are bound to sometimes pop up? Would you lessen your job-anxiety if your spurred your manager to coach your work group as a team; a team that supports each other and finds ways to add value to what they are about? Another way to minimize your worry is to acknowledge that so long as you are employed you can be fired no matter whether or not you are accused of a misdeed. Every employee can work scared. Unions were formed to provide a measure of security and to confront the at-will doctrine. But even with strong unions, no one is absolutely job-secure. So what? So we each must live with that worry unless we are independently wealthy. So we simply must be hard shelled enough to withstand some setbacks. So we do the best we can to earn an honest dollar. So we are wise to get a life beyond our jobs; the love and support family, avocations that keep work in perspective, and doing what little we can to better this world so in need of a caring spirit.

Sermon over. Does any of this make sense to you? Hopefully these thoughts will prompt you to better manage the anxiety that has filled your thoughts. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Think about what applying this thought might mean to you and your work group.

William Gorden