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The issue of Privacy in the nursing practices

The issue of Privacy in the nursing practices

Privacy has become a fundamental right in the modern-day society. Therefore, it is the legal and ethical obligation of the nurses to safeguarding those rights, relating to a person’s health information. The Catholic Social Thought principle of human dignity maintains that a person’s dignity is not diminished by economic status, age, ethnicity, or ability. Although every person has a right to human dignity, ensuring the right to privacy is respected in the nursing field has become more and more challenging.

All nurses understand as well as respect the need for privacy since their connection to their patients and colleagues relies on it. However, the truth as mentioned by Erickson and Millar (2004) is that new health care demands, advanced technology, and globalisation have led to more challenges in terms of privacy. Privacy of the person and privacy of information are basic needs, and they are important to the maintenance and development of an individual’s stable and mature environment as well as free society. According to Woogara (2004), privacy enables people to uphold their identity and autonomy, and can be ensured in different ways such as caring, solitude, reserve and anonymity. The Catholic Social Teaching’s main theme is the integral value, dignity and worth of every person(Australian Catholic University, 2012). According to the Catholic tradition, protecting the human dignity and human rights can result in a healthy community. For that reason, all people have a fundamental right to things that need human decency and life. Clark (2010) maintains that all people have a right to dignity simply because they are humans. Still, the notion that dignity is a fixed feature possessed by all people has been confronted with the argument that nothing can be done so as to take it away since it is fixed.

On the other hand, Clark (2010) argue that dignity is something which is sensed as well as experienced; therefore, from an experiential and humanistic point of view, any person whose dignity has been violated would definitely castoff the argument that it is fixed and cannot be taken away. The existing studies have reduced dignity to a mere concept that has not successfully accounted for its complexity. Rather than the appropriate and humane health care expected, nurses together with patients in a number of settings always face different forms of issues, which threaten health outcomes and affront the basic concept of human dignity (Cohen & Ezer, 2013). This is despite the fact that the rights of patients are a fundamental element of human rights which promote as well as sustain beneficial relationships between nurses and the patients. However, automation of healthcare information as well as the adoption of the computer-based patient record-keeping has exacerbated the issue of privacy. Basically, sensitive information is made more accessible by technology and can lead to privacy issues.

Nurses have a special role of striking a balance between the common good (the overall safety and health of the company) and individual good (the working capacity and health of the individual nurses). Without a doubt, this brings about an enormous issue on privacy (Heikkinen, Launis, Wainwright, & Leino‐Kilpi, 2006). If nursing was not perceived by society as an element of both the societal good and common good, then nursing as a profession would be obsolete. However, when the nursing practice fails to promote the common good, its elements of concern, compassion and caring can be substituted by technology and managed by technicians and machines (Donley, Grandjean, Jairath, McMullen, & Shelton, 2006). Tripartite cooperation for nurses results in a perennial ethical challenge on how to serve the interests (such as respecting the right to privacy) and how satisfy their employer’s expectations. The combined approach that involves ambulatory and preventive care is believed to be vulnerable to privacy breaches, but still it offers a valuable opportunity of appreciating organisational climate, work exposures problems associated with work.

To sum up, it has been argued that scores of challenges that surround privacy in the context of nursing practice is related to the dual loyalties of nurses towards the employer and the patients. This makes it hard for them to protect and disseminate information. Therefore, privacy cannot be considered as absolutely valuable since most of the decisions made in the nursing practice are for the common good and according to the catholic social teachings. Still, nurses have to develop a culture that respects dignity and promotes the common good, and this can be achieved by working as a team so as to meet the individual patients’ holistic needs.


Australian Catholic University. (2012). Promoting Human Flourishing Principles and Major Themes of Catholic Social Teaching. Banyo QLD: Australian Catholic University.

Clark, J. (2010, May 21). Defining the concept of dignity and developing a model to promote its use in practice. Retrieved from Nursing Times: http://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/practice-nurses/defining-the-concept-of-dignity-and-developing-a-model-to-promote-its-use-in-practice/5015026.fullarticle

Cohen, J., & Ezer, T. (2013, December ). Human rights in patient care: A theoretical and practical framework. Retrieved from Health and Human Rights Journal: https://www.hhrjournal.org/2013/12/human-rights-in-patient-care-a-theoretical-and-practical-framework/

Donley, R., Grandjean, C., Jairath, N., McMullen, P., & Shelton, D. (2006, December ). Nursing and the Common Good. Retrieved from The Catholic Health Association of the United States: https://www.chausa.org/publications/health-progress/article/november-december-2006/nursing-and-the-common-good

Erickson, J. I., & Millar, S. (2004). Caring for Patients While Respecting Their Privacy: Renewing Our Commitment. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 10(2), 1-23.

Heikkinen, A., Launis, V., Wainwright, P., & Leino‐Kilpi, H. (2006). Privacy and occupational health services. Journal of Medical Ethics, 32(9), 522–525.

Woogara, J. (2004). Patients’ rights to privacy and dignity in the NHS. Nursing Standard, 19(18), 33-37.