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Unread August 21st, 2005, 10:20 AM
William Reid William Reid is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Texas
Posts: 105
Default Re: job interview vs confidentiality

Interesting question, and not an uncommon situation., particularly in small professional communities. Accepting or declining the position is your choice. There are many employment and association circumstances in which a professional treats someone associated with the group (or a relative). Some people are more sensitive to (small or large) potential conflicts than others, but one thing to consider is whether or not the treater is the best choice. If I worked for a heart surgery group, I might have lots of confidence in the members and really want one of them to do my bypass procedure. Similarly, if I got an attractive offer from, say, a clinical department of a hospital or university, I probably wouldn't turn it down just because I was treating a faculty family member (except maybe the chairperson's spouse, and then I might consider an appropriate referral).

But speaking strictly of the question of what to say to the interviewer: Although I'd probably not tell the interviewer about treating some unidentified family member (e.g., what if only one or two of the other clinicians has a family?), I'm not sure it is necessarily unethical, either, especially if there are lots of other clinicians and families. Potential identifiability is the issue, and you may not be aware of all the ways the person might be identified. (Gossiping or bragging about unidentified patients is another issue, which isn't professional.)

Having said that, you should realize that the interviewer is under no obligation of confidentiality to you or colleagues (unless one has been spelled out beforehand). You may ask him or her to keep something private, but should be under no illusions that it will be kept private. Further, the interviewer's agency and duty is to his/her employer, not you.

There are lots of ways to politely decline the position. If you think you must include the professional discomfort reason (and I don't see much reason to do so), you could simply say something more vague, such as "I really appreciate the opportunity and the trouble you've gone to in considering me, but I have just discovered a professional conflict that makes me a little uncomfortable. I hope you understand."

I'll bet lots of readers have had similar experiences and been in similar circumstances, both as the treater and the patient (or family member). Maybe they'll comment.
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