Protected Health Information

General Information

All students enrolled in the WGU prelicensure nursing program are subject to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "Privacy Rule" contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This act, which became effective in April 2003, is designed to guarantee patient's rights and protects against the misuse or inappropriate disclosure of their individually identifiable health information. As part of their educational experience, students in health care professions are allowed access to protected health information as necessary to provide patient care. Students should access protected health information on the same basis as any other health care provider, which is a "need to know" basis only.


  1. Identifiable information, as contained in HIPAA, includes:
    • Names
    • All geographic areas smaller than a state
    • All dates
    • Telephone numbers, addresses, hospital account numbers, and any other identification information
    • Full face photographic images and any comparable images
  2. Students in WGU nursing programs are required to take the following steps to protect the privacy of patients:
    • Close room doors when discussing treatments and administering procedures.
    • Close curtains and speak softly in semi-private rooms when discussing treatment and/or performing procedures.
    • Do not discuss patients in public areas such as cafeteria lines, waiting rooms, and elevators.
    • Safeguard medical records by not leaving the record unattended in an area where the public can view or access records.
    • Log off the computer system immediately after reviewing an electronic medical record.
    • Prior to leaving the clinical area, destroy any notes made about a patient during a clinical experience that could identify that patient.
  3. Case Studies/Clinical Paperwork
    • Students must adhere to WGU nursing program and clinical agency policies related to access to patient information.
    • Students will not use a patient's name on the case studies/care paperwork or in clinical journals. Fictitious names or patient initials may be used.
  4. Accessing of Clinical Records
    • Students are only to access the clinical records of patients within their care.
    • Accessing clinical records of anyone other than their patients is considered a violation.
    • This includes accessing their personal record or the record of someone that they know including family members or friends.



Article Number: 20501, 2480

Version history
Revision #:
9 of 9
Last update:
‎09-17-2019 02:47 PM
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