Privacy Information

Confidentiality in the Wellness Center: Your Right to Privacy 

Concern about confidentiality is often a barrier for students in seeking the care they need.

In accordance with federal and state regulations, all records and communications between PLNU Wellness Center providers and patients are kept confidential, and will not be shared with anyone outside of the PLNU Wellness Center (including parents or guardians) without express consent of the patient, with the following exceptions:

  1. Legal guardians can access records for minors under the age of 18 without their consent. There are visits that are exempt from this rule and will still require patient consent even if the patient is under the age of 18.
  2. The consent requirement may be bypassed in cases of emergency, when a patient is unable to give consent.
  3. Consent requirements may be waived when required by law (such as in the case of a court ordered request for records or mandated reporting to the county public health department concerning communicable diseases).
  4. The Wellness Center shares diagnostic information with the student health insurance company for purposes of billing.

The PLNU Wellness Center providers may share records with off-campus medical providers for purposes of continuity of care (such as in the case of specialist referral), but we typically seek a patient’s consent for this.

A patient may withdraw consent to share information with anyone at any time.

You have a right to privacy. You should expect that your healthcare discussion, examination, and treatment will be conducted in private. You should expect that the presence of any individual will be explained to you and that person will be introduced by name.

Terms to Know:

  • Dependent: A dependent relies on someone else for their primary source of income.
  • Policyholder: A policyholder is the person who owns the insurance policy. This person can make and see changes in the insurance plan, including which services have been received under the plan.
  • Explanation of benefits (EOB): A statement sent to the policyholder that includes information about services received under the plan, as well as information such as patient name, total billed, the amount covered by the insurance plan, and the amount that is still owed.
  • FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.  Additional information about this law can be found on the U.S. Department of Education website.
  • HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a series of Federal regulatory standards that outline the lawful use and disclosure of protected health information (PHI). Additional information about these standards can be found on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.
  • Open Notes Law: This law, which went into effect in 2021, mandates that healthcare providers give patients easy access to many parts of their electronic health record. This law allows for transparency between providers and patients, and can lead to open dialogue about the care being provided. 
  • PHI: Protected Health Information (PHI) refers to an individuals' medical records and other individually identifiable health information in a healthcare setting.  Additional information about PHI and relevant privacy protection rules can be found on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Confidentiality and Student Medical Records

How can I keep my health notes private?

Here are a few basic actions you can take to protect your privacy:

  • Do not share your onelogin password with anyone.
  • Talk to your provider during your visit about any privacy concerns you may have so that you can explore options around keeping notes for a certain visit private.

What shows up in my Workday account after a visit at the Wellness Center?

Any charge to your student account associated with your visit shows up as “Wellness Center Charge”. No information about the type of care received will be provided. Anyone who has access to your Workday account will be able to see the fees.

Does my information actually stay private?

Yes! As noted, there are very few exceptions in which the Wellness Center staff can share your information without prior consent. Those exceptions are:

  • Legal guardians can access records for minors under the age of 18 without their consent.  There are visits that are exempt from this rule and will still require patient consent even if the patient is under the age of 18.
  • The consent requirement may be bypassed in cases of emergency when a patient is unable to give consent.
  • Consent requirements may be waived when required by law (such as in the case of a court-ordered request for records or mandated reporting to the county public health department concerning communicable diseases).
  • The Wellness Center shares diagnostic information with the student health insurance company for purposes of billing.

Confidentiality and Student Counseling Records

What can I expect from my first session?

The first session is called an Intake appointment. You will be asked to complete important paperwork online, prior to your first appointment. You can expect to meet with a therapist for 45 minutes, at which time the therapist will gather some additional information regarding the main concern for coming in. You will then discuss next steps, including a customizable care plan, which might look like scheduling a follow up to join a workshop, get connected to another department at PLNU (such as The Educational Access Center, Nutritional Consultant, or the Wellness Medical Center), and/or goal-focused individual therapy. We may make recommendations for an off-campus treatment provider if that seems most appropriate.

What kinds of concerns do students bring to the Counseling Center?

Students come to the Wellness Counseling Center with a wide range of presenting concerns. Students may want to talk about normal developmental issues, such as identity, academic stress, or relationship concerns. Other students might be dealing with more specific concerns, such as depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, body and eating concerns, trauma and post-traumatic stress symptoms, substance abuse, grief or suicidal thoughts. Other times, students are not sure what brings them into counseling, except that they have not been feeling like themselves, or might notice having difficulty keeping up academically or having trouble sleeping. A therapist can help identify the concern and provide ways of coping and increase self-awareness.

Is what I say in counseling kept confidential?

Brief counseling sessions are strictly confidential; no record of counseling is available to other college campus offices or personnel, potential employers, or family without your explicit permission. A Release of Information Form is signed by you for such permission. The sharing of client information, however, among the PLNU Wellness Center Staff for supervision or case consultation is not considered a violation of confidentiality. Confidential information exchanged in counseling may be shared in extenuating circumstances with the Vice President for Student Life & Formation, the Associate Dean of Student Care & Engagement and/or the Dean of Students. California State Law and the ethical standards of psychology and counseling mandate a sharing of confidential information under the following conditions: in instances where there is imminent danger of serious harm to yourself or others, in cases involving physical and/or sexual abuse/neglect of children or senior citizens, by court order, and when you sign a release to request that information be revealed to other individuals or agencies. (Pen. Code § 11165.9; Welf. & Inst. Code § 15630; CAMFT Code of Ethics § 2.1.)

Can the Wellness Counseling Center write me a note for missing class?

The Wellness Counseling Center cannot provide "notes" for absences from class, as you are expected to schedule counseling sessions around your academic schedule. If you are unable to attend class, please communicate with your professor to make up for missed work at your earliest convenience.

What if I want to switch therapists?

Most of the time, students feel connected with their therapist. There are times, however, when it may just not feel like a good fit. Although it might feel hard, we believe it is best to speak directly with your therapist and let them know you would like to change therapists. Therapists do not get angry or offended when students want to change therapists, though they do find it is helpful to talk about the reasons you want to change to figure out how to best suit your needs. If that feels too hard, let our office know by emailing or calling (619) 849-3020 to proceed.

Can a parent make an appointment at the Counseling Center for their student?

The student must call to make the appointment. Appointments cannot be made on a student's behalf.

Will I be referred off campus?

Most students who seek services at the Wellness Counseling Center are seen for brief, goal focused counseling. Some students will be referred to off campus practitioners when they want or have the need for more long-term, specialized, or intensive treatment than we can provide.

Where are my counseling records kept?

The Wellness Counseling Center, a department of Point Loma Nazarene University, is required by psychological practice standards of care, to keep your counseling records stored safely and confidentially. Your electronic records are kept on a server at PLNU, which meets applicable federal and state standards for security. Storage of any paper records are kept by PLNU in a secure location. All paper files that relate to your treatment are eventually transferred to your electronic record.

Are my counseling records confidential?

All records of counseling sessions with PLNU staff are held in confidence consistent with applicable federal and state law. Records include psychotherapy notes, related material, and scheduling of your attendance at appointments.

How long does the Wellness Counseling Center keep my counseling records?

The State of California requires that we keep your records for a minimum of 7 (seven) years after the end of counseling services and for minors (17 years and under), we must keep records for 7 (seven) years after the minor turns 18 (eighteen).

Can my counseling records be released without my authorization?

The law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and a therapist, and information can only be released to others with your written permission (e.g., the PLNU Authorization for Release of Information). However, PLNU professional staff may be legally permitted or required to disclose client information without prior consent under certain circumstances, including the following:

  • A client is likely to harm himself, herself, or others unless protective measures are taken.
  • There is a reasonable suspicion of abuse of children, dependent adults or the elderly.
  • The client lacks the capacity to care for him or herself.
  • There is a valid court order.
  • We may also have to release your information if we receive a valid subpoena. If we receive a valid subpoena or a court order, we will make an effort to contact you prior to releasing any information from your case record.

Can I cancel the authorization to release my counseling records?

Yes. The Authorization for Release of Information may be revoked by you at any time. The revocation must be in writing, signed by you or your representative, and delivered to: Wellness Counseling Center, Point Loma Nazarene University, 3900 Lomaland Drive, San Diego, CA 92106. The revocation will take effect when PLNU receives it, except to the extent PLNU or others have already relied and acted on it

Where can I access an Authorization for Release of Information form?

You can obtain the form from our office at Taylor Hall or you can download the Authorization of Release of Information Form.