55 answers

Odd Situation with Nurse- Should I Say Something to My Doctor?

Ok Moms:

I have an odd request and I am hoping to get tips on how to proceed.

Long story short, yesterday I was at my general practioners office and one of my symptoms was nauseau. So, she asked if I could be pregnant and I didn't think so, but for good measure she decided to run a pregnancy test. No problem. I also had to give blood. They call my name and I go in to give my blood. Well, the "nurse" (I'll call her that for this dicsussion but technically I think that her badge said medical assistant)was at the counter with her back to me and said to the other "nurse". "Well, her pregnancy test came back negative. That's good." The other nurse said, "How do you know she wanted it to be negative?" Then they proceed to have an entire discussion about my pregnancy test with the third woman who is taking my blood chiming in about the negative aspects of having children. Well, the nurse doing the test turned around and saw me and was visibly mortified, as she should have been. I just made light of it but I really thought that this was REALLY unprofessional. For all they knew, I could have been trying for a baby desperately or, God forbid, would they have behaved the same way if it was an HIV test? As you can see, I am frustrated by this, but I am torn on whether I should say something to my doctor? I am being treated for a chronic illness and I get my blood taken by these women at least once a month. So, it could be potentially awkward, but I also feel that under no circumstances should medical records be discussed.

Please let me know your thoughts.


What can I do next?

Featured Answers

This will probably make me unpopular, but I think you are overreacting a little bit. If you always go complain when people "offend" you are not going to be any better than the people who gossip. Maybe the woman was just annoyed with her kids that day that's why she said being pregnant could be bad. Yes, it was unprofessional to talk that way, but why are you stressing about it? Just let things go and try to have a sense of humor and you will be happier and healthier.

1 mom found this helpful

Guess this won't be a popular response, but people are people....they gossip, they break rules and she was unprofessional. However, if you need to say something, say it to HER! Why do people feel the need to "get someone in trouble".....times are tough. How would you feel if she was fired and couldn't care for her kids? I think that you have the right to feel any way you want to feel, but there's something to be said about not letting her bad judgement affect you.....sorry if this bothers anyone.

I hate to pile on, but you definitely need to alert the doctor. All three were acting unprofessionally and need to be alerted to the confidentiality issues they breached. To a certain degree they were lucky you were the one listening and not another patient...

More Answers

First, I am sorry you were embarrassed by this experience, it must have been uncomfortable for you.
As a medical professional, I can say that its not possible for your medical records to never be discussed among staff members in any facility where you get care. Its a team of professionals that work together with your doctor to get a result for you. Typically results are discussed to bounce things off each other and one or another may have and idea about what could be going on.
In reality it was only awkward because you were the one who overheard the conversation. Unless, of course, they mentioned you by name, then that would finger you as the patient and that would have been inappropriate, but not uncommon.
I had this happen to me after I had my oldest son and it was about an HIV test. I was in the special care nursery feeding my baby with my Mom. Earlier in the day they had drawn my blood for an HIV test (standard in OB deliveries at this hospital). The quote was "Make sure you tell Mrs. H--- that her HIV test was negative, I know she was worried about that!" !!!!!!! I was disgusted, and I was IN NO WAY WORRIED ABOUT THE RESULTS OF AN HIV TEST!!!!!!!!! I knew that they needed the results in order to discharge me, but that was all. Luckily there were no other parents in the nursery at the time, only my Mom. I resisted my urge to blast the lot of them, and calmly went to the desk and explained how I felt.
The point is, some sensitivity was needed in both situations and it can be gained with a gentle reminder that there are ears all over the office and their discussions and opinions are not just between them. If you do this and it happens again, then they need some re-training.
In response to all the responses that it is a violation of the HIPPA law, unequivocally NOT a violation of those laws. We are aloud to discuss test results with other involved staffers, however in public areas and if people over hear, well they just do, care needs to be used when using names. Sensitivity is what was lacking in this situation.

1 mom found this helpful

Horrific! Yes, say something and don't second guess yourself for one second!That conversation is screaming unprofessional and unethical. A medical facility is a place that we should feel comfortable and safe and those nurses violated that in a major way! It is not appropriate to have such a conversation at all let alone where any patients could have heard it. You don't go to the doctor to be judged, you go to the doctor for your health to be taken care of in a trusting and safe place.

I would write a letter so it is documented and send it to whom ever would be in charge of the facility and copy your doctor. Please don't worry for one second what will happen seeing these nurses after the fact. They were wrong and you saw that on their faces when they saw you. This is a perfect opportunity to stand up for yourself and say, "I don't think so!!"

What ever becomes of it, so be it but at least you can hold your head up and know that you stood up for yourself and reported an event that was very wrong.

Take care! Writing the letter is the right thing to do!

1 mom found this helpful

This will probably make me unpopular, but I think you are overreacting a little bit. If you always go complain when people "offend" you are not going to be any better than the people who gossip. Maybe the woman was just annoyed with her kids that day that's why she said being pregnant could be bad. Yes, it was unprofessional to talk that way, but why are you stressing about it? Just let things go and try to have a sense of humor and you will be happier and healthier.

1 mom found this helpful


With this you really can take their conversation in two ways. Yes they were very unprofessional about talking right there at the front desk. I think that maybe you should have asked the one nurse why did she fell that was a good thing that the test was negative so that she could explain. Not in a nasty way but in a nice polite way as if you had no problem with what she said.

Going to the doctor would probably may your visits a little more akward. Being that you are being treated for a chronic illness could be the reason that she thought the negative result was good. I am in no way taking their side because that should have been discussed in private, but sometimes we take things the wrong way with out questioning the right person. If she was put on the spot she could have explained abnd maybe it would have made you feel better, or she could have studdered and you would have the true answer if she was trying to be a smarty.

Your next visit if you are up to it pull the nurse to the side and ask her in a polite way, "you know I heard you say my test was a good thing that it was negative, why was that".

Absolutely say something...be direct, yet gentle. I have worked in healthcare for 13 years. Respecting confidential information is a ongoing obligation of the healthcare worker. Sometimes one can forget how sensitive this information is. The doctor needs to be aware how casual his/her staff is treating this information. Sounds like they are due for some inservicing on confidentiality!!

Try to speak directly to the doctor (by phone okay) or find out if there is a practice manager (someone who is at least an RN). I am confident that your concerns will be heard loud and clear. Another thought would be read the fine print of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act(HIPAA). I think that form lists a designated person to handle these type of complaints.

Please let us know how this turns out.

ADD: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/index.html
Here is the government's website on HIPPA.

you should definitely mention it to the doctor. their behavior was unprofessional. plus, it is not their business!

I absolutely think you should say something to your doctor. Your doctor's office should be a place of safety and professionalism, and his staff are a package along with him. If I didn't feel safe and respected in his office as a whole I would consider changing practices altogether.

It was pretty ignorant of them to talk about it in a location that could be overheard like that. You can be pretty sure they won't have such public discussions in the future. That being said, they're not violating HIPAA rules if the information was only discussed among the personnel in the doctor's office. I'm sure that when you signed the privacy notice, it said something about health-care professionals, etc. not disclosing your information to other parties, though the medical facility is treated as a single entity, so they're not really an outside party.

People will always talk. You just happened to catch them in the act. It might make you feel better to address the nurse (or whatever she is) next time and ask her to please keep any conversations about private matters outside of the public arena. Because asking them not to discuss your medical information among eachother is a waste of breath. If the doctor says to do a blood test to test for X, and the nurse takes the order, she now knows that you're being tested for X. Then when she hands in the lab ticket, the lab technician knows you're being tested for X. She then reports the results back to whomever, and it's full circle. If only one person had access to your chart, you'd find that your doctor visits took hours.

Good luck, and don't let it get you worked up.

I would absolutely say something to your doctor.
I work in the medical field (at a hospital)and I will say that the environment is getting more and more unprofessional. Those women are supposed to be professional and they just violated HIPPA (the privacy law), what if that was another patient and you overheard that entire conversation? We need to keep professionals accountable for their actions and their words.
Good Luck!

totally tell your MD. They are in a violation of HIPAA. They should not be discussing your situation, if you could hear them, chances are other patients also heard. Totally unprofessional.

I used to pipe up and report things and let it be known how unprofessional some people were (your example is a good one) and I found it to be a losing battle so here is at least a great forum to complain about it. I recently had a son in a hospital (he is eighteen) and the nurse made me stay while she filled out his forms and asked him all about his sex life in front of me. While he had been fairly open before I do think it violated his privacey. I am waiting until he is done with treatments with the very nice doctor and also think seriously about complaining about the lack of professionalism but I know it will do no good. I have gone through many experiences far longer than this site will permit me to detail but I feel for you and I know us moms are happy to listen. I suppose if it really bothers you and you feel it will hurt someone and your conscience tells you to take it a step further than of course do make a call or write a letter. I only told you my findings in the past (for example a two page letter to West Suburban hospital that was totally ignored about a nurse doing something similar) and I think a lot of this just goes into the circular file. If you get anywhere please let us know!

I would say something. That could have been really hurtful and you may be protecting someone in the future from their "gossip." The good news is, if she was really mortified, that alone might have solved the problem!!

Firstly, may I say that I'm sorry you were made to feel uncomfortable by this situation. It was very unfortunate that you were privy to such a careless exchange.

Secondly, those that have quoted HIPAA to you are misinformed. An earlier poster was correct that medical staff are indeed allowed to discuss your records/test results. To this end, these employees' behavior was seriously unprofessional, careless and insensitive.

Your options depend on your personality and your approach: 1) let it go and realized you were not being singled out, 2) discuss it directly with the assistant, letting her know how disturbed you were by their discussion in the hopes that she/they will take greater care/be more aware in the future or 3) tell your physician of your experience so that they can be aware of the conduct of staff and make whatever steps necessary to correct their behaviors.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

By all means, you should let the dr. know. According to HIPA, they should never discuss a patient amongst themselves like that. I'm sure the doctor would want to know if any of his staff was being unprofessional.

I would absolutely say something. Whether its to the Dr. or to the supervisor (if not Dr.). I'm sure nurses, Drs., etc talk about patients all of the time (not that it is appropriate) but they need to be extremely careful as to where they are doing it. If you are bold enough I would probably even say something to the actual nurses that were involved in the conversation. It may really freak them out and possibly make them think twice before they start discussing other people's personal health issues.

If I'm understanding correctly, all 3 of the women worked at the office and were involved in the blood work. I could be wrong, but it sounded like they all worked at the office and the 3rd person was taking your blood. I'm not sure if their discussion is against the Hippa because outside of saying that your test was negative, they were not really discussing your medical history/condition. I agree that this is hurtful and unprofessional to possibly unprofessional, but from past experience, most medical professionals do discuss situations with each other and I THINK that if all providers are involved with the care, it is not against any type of patient confidentiality. If it bothers you enough, I would tell the Doctor, however, I would have probably said something to the "Nurses" at the time, just like you had explained it in your request... "What if I would've liked to have had a positive test?" and in regards to their discussion about the negatives of children...there are things about having children that are different than not having children, but I think it's to the individual as to whether they are negatives or not. Everything has a negative even winning the lottery. I have three (7 girl, 6 boy and 4 girl) but everything they do good, totally outweighs everything they do bad. I would've said something snotty like something about maybe the way the kids/mom were raised caused all these negative ideas or maybe "sounds like you regret your decision, but my daughter is the love of my life" or maybe, "I never would've ever thought a mother could feel that way". I think that would've made her feel like a horrible person. Good Luck with your decision.

Unbelievable!!! This is a violation of HIPPA!!!! i.e. the privacy act we all have to sign now anytime we see a practitioner. I would find out the Manager/Supervisor of that group, write/fax him/her a letter explaining what happened immediately.

Like you said, what if you had been trying for years to conceive, what if it were HIV, STD, etc. Something needs to be done.

I would say something to the Dr.

Totally unprofessional, but I am guessing if you go in every month, you have some sort of relationship with them. If you don't yet, you will. I would take it up with the one who was openly discussing your issues. Take it up directly with the source and then based on her reaction, make your decision to take it further or not. Say something like, "I know that I am in here every month and that we have formed a relationship, but in the future I prefer that my medical issues not be discussed with others in a public manner." If she doesn't get the message, take it further. Good luck.

Of course say something. If you feel bad getting people in trouble then don't use their names.

Definitely say something

Yes!! By all means would I say something, there is such a thing as a Pirvacy Policy Act. which they should be adhering to and apparently they aren't. You could actually sue them if wanted to. My sister works for a dr. and they can't even say the first names of patients in the waiting room. Your privacy should be protected. I'm sure they wouldnt' want someone to do that to them.

THis is odd, but I do believe that I would have that tough conversation with the doctor. I would hate for that to happen to someone that may not take it as well. I am sure that the doctor would want to know and get that resolved. Patients are the foremost and should be treated with respect at all times. That was not respectful at all. I would have the conversation in love and grace, and just let him them know that it was uncomfortable and wouldn't want anyone to get hurt. I am sure that he/she is professional enough to approach it with them to not point fingers at you, so that that situation is not uncomfortable for you. If they do take it that way, they have no business in the field.

God Bless

I would say something.

I would say something to the nurses directly--or in a letter to HR. I would probably got he HR route. This could, potentially put the doc in a very difficult situation. The doc may or may not be their "superior." Best of luck

absolutely! Their open discussion regarding a patient's test results is in violation of the HIPPA law (a law protecting patient's rights and privacy). I would say something regardless of knowing this information. I think your doctor would appreciate knowing your thoughts.Good luck.


Guess this won't be a popular response, but people are people....they gossip, they break rules and she was unprofessional. However, if you need to say something, say it to HER! Why do people feel the need to "get someone in trouble".....times are tough. How would you feel if she was fired and couldn't care for her kids? I think that you have the right to feel any way you want to feel, but there's something to be said about not letting her bad judgement affect you.....sorry if this bothers anyone.

OMG!! That is horrible! When someone talks about having children negatively it blows my mind-they don't personally have to have them, but they have to realize that everyone in society-our heroes were all children once, and it's your right to decide for yourself without being judged! That is very offensive and you should tell someone how this upset you so it doesn't happen again in earshot of patients!

as a nurse who works in a peds office I say you definately should talk to the dr. Unless, someone does nothing will be done. Sometimes the office staff may say something but it ends up being- a dispute between staff. Dr's take it more seriously when pts complain about it. And the drs can not fix something if they dont know there is a problem. I am sure the dr will be just as mortified and embarrased. The persons who did that need to be corrected and reminded about confidentiality and respect.

I definitely would say something but not to your doctor. Call Patient relations of the hospital. They need to know about this. This is a huge disregard for your privacy not to mention your feelings. What if it wasn't you standing there but someone else? It's totally wrong!

Not only do you say something to your doctor, but follow it up with a letter to whomever in charge of the facility. The point of this is for the staff to be reminded on the confidentiality of patients' situation and details are not to be discussed openly for any patients to hear.

You really should say something to your doc. This was completely uncalled for and extremely unprofessional!!! I know you fear backlash from the nurses but if you let it slide they may just think you're a pushover and continue their unprofessional behavior. You are correct, medical records should never, ever be discussed without your expressed, written permission! This situation makes me so angry. You should never be put in an uncomfortable position like especially at a doctors office. Those are just my two cents. Good luck.

yes I would talk to the doctor about it.

I would say something. Your incident thankfully was not discussing a serious issue but what if it had. What if they were discussing cancer results or something very personal. I think the doctor needs to be made aware of the desk conversation. Those ladies should not be "gossiping" at the desk for all to hear.

Yes. The doctor would probably like to know...the nurse is part of the package and affects his practice.

Yes!!! They were very unprofessional. Yes, you should say something about it to your doctor. Unless they want to educated you on your illness, results or medical problems your illness is not something to socialize about, especially, in front of you. If any other patients were in the room with you or could've heard what they said regarding your test results they are violating HIPPA Law.

I also think the Medical Assistant & Nurse was very unproffessional. Your Laboratory result should've never been discussed between the two of them, and yes you should speak to your Doctor, regarding their conversation and hopefully he feels it's also neccessary to speak to them regarding speaking on Patients conditions. It's unethical for medical employee to discuss any patient, and it can also be costly to the Practioner. Years ago I went to Medical Assistant school and there was an oath we taken and sign. To keep patient information private and never discuss with no one,but the Doctor and that was to better understand the situation/condition. They should be told that,that type of behavior willn't be tolerated, and if so there will repreminded. Also he doesn't have to mention your name.
Take care and Pray for your healing.


I hate to pile on, but you definitely need to alert the doctor. All three were acting unprofessionally and need to be alerted to the confidentiality issues they breached. To a certain degree they were lucky you were the one listening and not another patient...

Heck!! I would!!!! Not question about it!!!

ABSOLUTELY discuss it with your doctor. I agree with the thoughts on HIPPA - I'm sure your doctor wants to know for legal purposes, but also, I imagine s/he wants to run a professional practice. Not only that, it is so disrespectful and flippant. These care providers clearly gossip about many of the patients, and this time they got caught.

The fact that you heard meant that others could have heard. The Health Insurance Portability and Protection Act (HIPPA) allows the sharing of medical information between health professionals for he purpose of delivering care. It does not allow such sharing for gossiping or chit chat. So what they did was against the law. While yes it is awkward, you should tell your doctor because they clearly need training on their responsibilities under HIPPA. If they do this about you, they likely gossip about all kinds of patients in all kinds of ways. It is a little like the roach theory of life - if you see one, there are many. I think you can explain what happened to your doctor and suggest training without a large fuss. The doctor will be happy that you are not suing his or her practice for a privacy violation.

I agree, that was a very unprofessional situation! I think you should say something to your doctor about this.
However, if you don't come off bitter just concern. Because if she did this with you there she has no respect for her patients.

Absolutely say something to the doctor. For all you know they participate in these discussions frequently. If they choose to discuss patients it should be in complete privacy. If you don't say anything then the doctor never knows who is being hurt by this.

You surely should tell the dr. everything you heard. What if you had lost a child and was trying to get pg? They have no business repeating any patient information to anyone or eachother. I'm appauled. The dr. would want to know what kind of employees he hired....

Honestly, it should be brought up to your doctor or the office manager. They totally violated the HIPPA law. Then either the doctor or the office manager can deal with it. If this happened to you, then it is probably being done with other patients' information and should be stopped as soon as possible. If handled professionally by the doctor or manager, they will not need to bring up your name but will at least shed light on the situation. Unfortunately, I had a similar situation happen at my sons' pediatrician's office, and I notified the office manager right away via phone. The incident was handled well, and I still go there without any problems. Good luck to you.

I would say something. I am a nurse and their discussion was unethical. Speak up and let your voice be heard. You have rights.

That is a violation of your HIPAA privacy! Definitely bring it to the attention of your physician. Your medical results should only be discussed between patient and physician. Shame on those assistants. Please, please tell the physician. This is a serious matter and that is how it keeps happening, nobody tells the doctors that it is going on outside the treatment rooms. Please, please tell!
Barb R.


You might want to check into the HIPAA laws and the practices HIPAA form you signed. Your private health information is protected under this law...yours and everyone else. Even if they were not talking about you they can not "gossip" about it or discuss it in common areas, elevators, lunch tables or reception areas. This was not HIPAA acceptable behavior and you should discuss it with your physician so they can retrain their staff on the health care privacy laws.

I hope this and all your other responses help you make your decision. Take care.


It would seem they violated HIPAA laws, by discussing a person's test results in public - in front of you no less but it shouldn't be in front of anyone!

When I volunteered at the hospital I was made to go through hipaa training, even though I was working in the gift shop. Hospitals take this sort of thing seriously.

Definatly say something to the doctor.

No. I would go directly to the source. Very pleasantly I'd remind the "nurse" about the incident on my next visit. I would mildly admonish her for discussing my test results with anyone else. However, if she didn't indicate who you were to the other "nurse" there was no harm done. In every profession, clients/patients/bosses/co-workers/etc. are discussed without any harm being done unless overheard. Just remind her to be aware of her environment/situation before launching into a "personal" conversation about anything.

I hope this helps

I would say something!! The Dr. needs to know about his staff. If you don't say something, he could lose patients and if you think he is a good Dr. that would be sad for him and the people he may help. I would not write a letter or anything they might see. I would talk to him in private during your visit. My FIL is a Dr. and I know he would want to know something like this so it can be handled. If you go in often it could be done at your next visit and then it is a long time between what happened and you. Chances are they are acting this way more than just in your case. You just caught them. It is VERY unprofessional!!!

Definitely talk to your doctor! God forbid what else these "nurses" are talking about!

Absolutely. Completely unprofessional and they should be pulled up for it.

I would definitely mention it to the Dr. He should speak to the "nurse" and if she has any intentions of being professional in the future, no more will be said, and she should treat you in the future, with respect.

I would report them right away. They have no business discussing anything in front of a patient.

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