Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services (CHWS) abides by state law governing health professions and by our professional ethics in our approach to privileged information. This confidentiality is important to us, and we imagine it's important to those considering treatment with us as well.
We cannot confirm to anyone outside of CHWS that a student has (or has not) been seen for a medical or counseling appointment unless we have the student's written consent to do so. There are a few legal exceptions to keeping information privileged [below], but in general, our services are strictly confidential.
If your provider has reason to believe that you present a danger to yourself or others, or learns of the ongoing abuse or neglect of a minor child, an adult (usually elderly) dependent, or a developmentally disabled person, (s)he may be legally compelled to report this information.
These exceptions to confidentiality are rare, and whenever possible the provider would discuss it with the student in advance of any actions being taken.
Please understand that "presenting a danger to self or others" refers only to cases in which a professional assesses there to be an imminent risk of suicide or homicide. It is not uncommon for students to discuss a wish for the pain to end, a wish for others to disappear, or to engage in self-harming behaviors such as cutting. These are taken very seriously, but we do not equate an acknowledgement of these feelings with an imminent risk of suicidal or homicidal behavior. Students needn't worry that they will forfeit their confidentiality by speaking honestly about how badly they may be feeling.
In most cases, when we are truly concerned about student safety, the patient/client actually provides us their written consent to share this information with a few important others.
At times, students request that we communicate about their condition with parents, staff, or faculty. In order to do so, we obtain their written consent by asking the student to sign a release form.
Health care providers are allowed by Washington State Law to consult with one another about coordinating client/patient care. However, your CHWS provider will typically ask for a student's written consent before doing so, which enables them to be more involved in these treatment decisions and relationships.
If you have any questions about the confidentiality of the information you share with CHWS staff, please feel free to ask your counselor or medical provider. If you are not currently being seen, contact CHWS Director Donn Marshall at 253.879.1555 with your questions about confidentiality.
Student Staff Confidentiality
We take student trust seriously. We do have some student employees in our clinic and have implemented strict policies designed to protect patient/client privacy.
Work-study students who have been hired to help front desk and clinic staff are trained thoroughly about confidentiality guidelines. All student staff members employed at CHWS sign two confidentiality statements: one for the university and one for CHWS. Any breach would result in disciplinary action, including possible discharge from their position.
Students who work at the front desk check in patients and clients and answer phones. They are not allowed to ask why a student is making an appointment, nor are they allowed to read any charts.
Clinic assistants work under the direct supervision of our Medical Assistant, taking vital signs, testing visual acuity, and assisting with in-clinic lab tests. They are not allowed to read charts, nor are they allowed to ask questions regarding physical or mental health.
We encourage medical patients to ask for the Medical Assistant if they feel uncomfortable interacting with student staff members.