November 29, 2016

Nursing License Registration & Your Personal Information

When I became a nursing student, a co-worker told me, "Do not display your home address when you apply for a nursing license. Information is power." I had no idea what this meant and asked for clarification. When you request a nursing license with the state of Florida, you can opt to display your work address or a post office box rather than showing your actual home address. Unlike some states, Florida displays an "address on record" for each registered nurse. You determine what address will be displayed, but an address is required. My co-worker went on to reveal that he had previously chosen to show his home address on his nursing license application. Six months into his nursing career, a patient became upset with him and threatened him. Management immediately reprimanded the patient, and the encounter ended with the nurse reassigned to another team. Sadly, the experience didn't end there, and the patient's actions continued in other forms.

The patient found the nurse's address online, using the Florida Board of Nursing license search. Once the patient had this information, he then harassed the nurse for a full year before authorities could act. This story taught me that as a professional, there could be circumstances where individuals take your professional activities personally. As nurses, we don't create medical care plans nor do we have the authorization to prescribe medications. Medical providers (MDs, DOs, NPs, and PAs) create healthcare plans and determine prescription needs. Some patients don't understand the nursing scope of practice and assume you will not help them because you choose not to. This attitude can lead to individuals acting rashly and doing things they wouldn't normally do. Healthcare is a very personal matter. Projection and displacement are common occurrences.

If you are in a state that allows you to register your work address or opt out of displaying your home address, I recommend you do this. Whether it's a patient who needs mental health assistance, or an individual who lacks understanding, information is power. Power in the wrong hands can lead to heinous acts. We all have had moments where our emotions got the best of us, and we acted impulsively. Human nature is a convoluted process with conclusions and assumptions influencing us. Even if you've never experienced harassment or workplace violence, this preventive measure could hopefully prevent this type of thing from entering your life.

In my nursing career, I've treated criminals who had charges including sexual assault, murder, drug trafficking, and kidnapping. We are medical professionals, and we care and treat individuals across the spectrum. When my home address was displayed (for a brief time) for the world to see, I received notes and letters from patients and their family members. It was inspiring and thoughtful. But not everyone in the world has good intentions. Some people want you to feel their pain and fixate on you as a target. Even if you have no such people in your life, this opting out could deter people from obtaining your personal information. It hopefully will prevent access into your life and access to your loved ones. I'd much rather have someone know where I work rather than where I lay my head to sleep. It's an intimate thing to know where someone lives or where their family lives. Be safe and be smart.

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