Confidentiality breaches in hospital: the experiences of young people and parents
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Confidentiality breaches in hospital: the experiences of young people and parents

Claus Sixtus Jensen Clinical nurse specialist and postdoctoral researcher, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
Marianne Eg Nursing researcher, Paediatrics and Adolescents, Viborg Regional Hospital, Viborg, Denmark

Why you should read this article:
  • To enhance your awareness of the reasons for breaches of patient confidentiality in healthcare settings

  • To learn about the experiences of confidentiality among young people, their parents and related caregivers during a hospital stay

  • To identify areas that could be addressed to ensure the confidentiality of children and young people is protected in hospital settings

Background Healthcare professionals, including nurses, have a vital role in protecting patient confidentiality. However, evidence shows that breaches of confidentiality are common in hospitals for various reasons, including the ward design and issues related to healthcare staff’s professionalism. The situation can be complicated further in paediatric care because of the age range of patients and their associated needs and rights about information sharing, confidentiality and consent.

Aim To explore the views and experiences of young people admitted to hospital, and their parents and related caregivers, about the effects of confidentiality breaches.

Method A descriptive questionnaire-based survey was conducted in 2018 in two regional hospitals in Denmark over two weeks. A total of 214 surveys were completed by parents and related caregivers (n=173) and by young people (n=41).

Findings Many parents and young people reported that they had overheard healthcare professionals discussing care, including information about named patients, test results, personal disclosures and various comments or opinions. In many cases these breaches of confidentiality affected patients’ overall experience of hospital and led some to withhold important information.

Conclusion This study demonstrates the challenges of preserving confidentiality in children’s wards. Situations in which confidentiality breaches were reported appear to have been affected by the physical environment, such as ward design, as well as staff behaviour and attitudes. Therefore, nurses and other healthcare professionals need to enhance their understanding of issues related to confidentiality and pay attention to how and where information about patients is shared.

Nursing Children and Young People. doi: 10.7748/ncyp.2022.e1389

Peer review

This article has been subject to open peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Jensen CS, Eg M (2021) Confidentiality breaches in hospital: the experiences of young people and parents. Nursing Children and Young People. doi: 10.7748/ncyp.2022.e1389


The authors wish to thank the respondents in this study for taking the time to complete the questionnaire

Published online: 07 March 2022

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