Of Online Shenanigans and Student Expulsions

While I was away spending time with family, I thought I’d leave you to marinate over this piece of nursing news that has Twitter all…well, atwitter.

But apparently WordPress had other ideas and didn’t publish the post. So there you are. 🙂

It concerns a nursing student who was expelled for posting a picture of herself with a human placenta on Facebook.

You heard me. Expelled.

This is not the first time that the use of Facebook has controversially affected our profession. Take the nurses in California who were fired for discussing their patients online. Or the nurses in Wisconsin who lost their jobs after posting pictures of a patient’s x-ray. No, my friends. Facebook can be tricky when it comes to HIPAA.

I’ve been intrigued to read the response to this most recent act of discipline. The fact is, this particular nursing student revealed nothing about a patient, nor were there any identifying characteristics that could have tied the placenta to its donor. HIPAA, in this case, seems to be safe. Given that, I believe expulsion may have been a bit harsh.

However, regardless of the legalities, I do think it was in poor taste to publicly post a picture of a body part that someone else donated. While I completely agree with Sarah Beth RN’s argument that Facebook is our generation’s way of communicating with one another (and I do believe that this particular nursing student intended no harm or disrespect), Facebook is extremely public and there should be a limit to what we share. Call me old-fashioned, call me an ol’ fuddy duddy (but c’mon, I’m still part of the Facebook generation), but just because social media is available, doesn’t mean it’s always appropriate. There is a difference between a vial of blood and a human placenta.

My personal belief is that the student should be allowed to return to school and graduate, but not without some form of disciplinary action. The school should encourage conversation among their students and faculty about the appropriate use of social media, given the nature of our profession. I also think that the lab instructor should have either told the students not to take the picture in the first place, or taken some responsibility for what happened because she knew why they took the picture and what they intended to do with it.

But those are just my two cents. Read the article and let me know what you think!

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