When she was offered a position as a nurse practitioner at a well-known and highly regarded clinic, Ms. J was delighted. After graduating, Ms. J had worked in a small practice and garnered a good deal of hands-on experience. But after five years, she was ready for something more challenging.
The interviews were rigorous, but Ms. J expected that from such a prestigious institution. Her friendly, calm demeanor stood her in good stead throughout the process, and after a series of interviews, Ms. J was offered the job.
On her first morning, she was given a copy of the clinic’s rules, regulations and policies. Ms. J was instructed to read, sign and return the policy manual by the end of her first week.
That evening, Ms. J casually flipped through the manual and signed the form at the end. She dropped it off the next morning and didn’t give it a second thought until almost two years later.
For the first 22 months of her employment, Ms. J felt that she had grown considerably as a clinician. Her work was interesting and challenging and her supervisors were supportive and gave her ample opportunity to develop her skill.
Ms. J’s curiosity, however, was a distinct drawback. It was not unusual for famous people — actors, actresses, athletes and musicians — to seek treatment at the clinic. The media camped out in the clinic’s parking lot and often tried to elicit information from the clinic staff.
One day, Ms. J was putting some patient files away when she noticed a familiar name on a patient folder at the nurses’ station. The fairly common name was also that of a well-known actress. Curious as to whether it was actually the actress, Ms. J peeked at the records to verify the age of the patient. Her suspicions confirmed, she quickly closed the file without looking at the diagnosis or other medical information. But, unbeknownst to her, another employee had witnessed the act and reported it.
At the end of the day, Ms. J was called into the office and asked directly whether she had looked at the patient’s records. Ms. J admitted that she had, simply to verify if the patient was who she thought it was. “I didn’t look at anything personal, and I didn’t tell anyone that she was here,” she added. Nevertheless, and much to her surprise, Ms. J was fired.