Monday, December 10, 2007

Fairly Legal

I'm not sure if you're aware of the state of the medical Blogosphere, but in the past year or so, there has been a spate of closures of medical-type blogs. To be sure, there are some shining examples of ways in which working health-care types can enlighten, opine, and entertain. Many are a great read, some are intellectually and/or politically challenging -- but I guess it's an endeavor that is not without risk. In these waters, there be sharks. Arrrr.

When I started this little experiment, I was sure to make mention of HIPAA, the medical privacy law, as it applies to blog postings. I'm aware of where the rough outlines of appropriateness start to blur even more than usual... and in fact, I'm one of the few people I know who has actually read the text of the thing. Even so, when it comes to guidance, there's really nothing concrete, and nothing a poor student could call reliable. Because nobody really knows. Like so much of law, once you get into it a little, it's more a conversation than an edict from on high.

No, I'm not closing down the blog. I'm just long-windedly saying that people act like HIPAA provides a clear, bright line, when it really doesn't. The best a guy can do is to keep the conversation going. So, when I started school last summer, I had a conversation.

The handbook for my school seems pretty up-to-date, when it comes to real-world questions. There's a policy about the finer points of how and when alcohol may be served at school events, for example. I am expressly forbidden to use not just school computers but also school bandwidth to download pornography (or, presumably, to upload it). Care is taken to let me know that the use of the school's name and logo is controlled, and there's a procedure to follow, when it comes to getting a possible class t-shirt design approved.

Yet it says nothing about blogs.

My opinion, based on my interpretation of the law, is that writing here is a part of my learning process. It's a tool I use to reflect on the ideas and experiences that will make up the foundation of my training and eventually, my practice. So if I'm doing well, writing here is part of a system that is getting good results. If I'm struggling, the blog might represent a means by which I can identify and address problems I'm having with my own learning process.

As I've said before here, losing out on academic or professional standing because I keep a blog would be mortifying, not least because I like to think of such conflicts as avoidable. I am still (relatively) young and naive as I write this.

So, in the first week or two of classes, I sat down and spoke with the director of my program. I told him that this blog exists. I explained that thematically, it's about the story of how I got from where I was to where I am now. I mentioned that a handful of interested parties, most of them family and friends I talk to in the real world, keep tabs on it, in a loose way. I said that I can't expect it to be totally anonymous, but I make an effort to at least obscure details, and explained to him a few of the minimum things involved in my process for doing that.

He said it's cool. As long as I don't mention individuals by name, and I don't specify the name of the school or be too very detailed about its location, he sees no problem.

So... have no fear that I'm jeopardizing my present or my future. If you've got questions about what "studying medicine on fast-forward" is like, or about the deal with the PA world, give me a shout. It's nice that a core group tries to keep tabs on me this way, and it's always fun when unexpected people pop up, having followed me from more interesting places.

I'll try not to be so terribly cheese-sandwich-ey, but then again the definition of a blog is personal writing that is interesting... to the person writing.

I have a break coming up soon. This could be a good time for me to perk this place the heck up.

1 comment:

Barb said...

OK, so I've got a question for you.

Is there a "proper" form of address for a PA? or is it an individual preference?

I ask because at my husband's neurologist's office the ratio of time spent with the PA to time spent with the doctor is running roughly 25 to 1 in the PA's favor. Calling her by her first name seems somehow not quite right, (too casual and familiar, I think); but calling her Ms {lastname} feels off-kilter, too.