Nurse's firing highlights importance of social media discretion

The firing of a New York City nurse for her social media use has reaffirmed the hazards of healthcare workers bringing their work online, according to ABC News.

Katie Duke was fired from her job as a nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital after posting a photo to Instagram of an empty trauma room after the treatment of a man hit by a subway train. Duke was told she was fired for insensitivity, and that she had not violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, she told ABC News. Duke claims she did not take the picture, but rather reposted it from a doctor who also worked at the hospital. New York Presbyterian has not reprimanded or otherwise disciplined the doctor, according to the article.

Nurses serve on the frontline of healthcare, which means they must take special care in what they post, Nancy Spector, director of regulatory innovations for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, told ABC News. "Most of the nurses that get into trouble have good intentions but they just don't know how far reaching social media can be," she said. "Remember, nothing can really be deleted."

Duke is far from the first healthcare worker to see negative fallout from her social media presence. Healthcare workers use of social media to disclose patient information is common, and often more actively malicious than Duke's, FierceHealthcare previously reported. For example, at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, an emergency department physician posted photos of a model admitted for excessive drinking to his Instagram and Facebook accounts, and a doctor at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in Missouri used social media not only to sound off on a pregnant patient's frequent tardiness, but to disclose that the patient had suffered a stillbirth.

Nearly 60 percent of surveyed healthcare professionals say their workplace access to social media is restricted, with their employers basing the limitations on wasted time and lowered productivity. Social media may have positive applications within healthcare, however, with a January eHealth initiative report finding blogs, message boards and social networking sites help break down communication barriers between patients and providers, and build meaningful, supportive relationships, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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