Nurse's firing over Instagram photo spurs social media debate

This week FierceHealthcare covered a story that struck a nerve with readers, raising questions about social media use, HIPAA, the bias shown to doctors versus nurses and firing practices at hospitals.

In case you missed it, an emergency room (ER) nurse in New York was fired after posting a photo of an empty trauma room after clinicians saved the life of a man hit by a subway train.

The nurse admits she reposted the picture from one of the doctor's Instagram pages. The doctor wasn't reprimanded or disciplined.

And while the incident underscores the importance of using discretion when posting comments and pictures on social media, it also raised concerns from one reader who questioned why, in an age of transparency, an empty trauma room following a major incident is terrible to publicize.

Indeed the circumstances are murky at best. The nurse was part of  an ABC reality show "New York Med," described as a series that "toggles between the renowned surgeons of Manhattan's New York Presbyterian Hospital and the gritty world of trauma surgeons at Newark's University Hospital where the ER is a doorway to the mean streets of one of America's most violent cities." So the scene of the trauma team trying to save the life of this man was likely filmed and perhaps would later be broadcast on national television.

The nurse, Katie Duke, told ABC News that hospital officials admitted the photograph didn't violate HIPAA privacy rules or the organization's social media policies, but instead fired her because the posting was insensitive. She posted the image with the caption, "#Man vs 6 train."

The firing came as a shock to Duke, who worked at the hospital for six years prior to the incident. She told the New York Daily News that she decided to post the photo because it was a "moving and impactful picture." It was, she said, "just a very genuine intention of … want(ing) people to see what goes on in an emergency room, from the perspective of being an ER nurse."

When asked for comment, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital told the Daily News that the hospital "does not discuss individual employee matters. NYMed provides snapshots of experiences at NYP. It would be impossible to convey every aspect of every situation in one-hour of television."

The story generated a lot of interest on FierceHealthcare's Facebook page with some readers siding with the hospital decision. But one reader wondered, "Why is it that it always falls on the nurse and not the doctor? Both should be counseled about insensitivity and should nots. A class on legal implications and the problems with social media is a must."

What do you think?  Share your thoughts below or on our LinkedIn page--Ilene (@FierceHealth)

Follow us on Facebook!