Healthcare News & Insights

Nurses posted dying patient’s graphic photo on Facebook


Note to emergency room personnel: Refrain from taking grisly photos of dying patients and posting them online.

In April, a 60-year-old man was violently attacked by another resident at his nursing home. The victim was stabbed more than a dozen times with such ferocity that he was nearly decapitated. He was brought to the emergency department of St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

As he lay dying, multiple nurses and other hospital staff took photos of the man and his injuries and posted them on Facebook.

The photos were up for two days before another hospital employee saw them and reported the incident.

The hospital fired four of the employees involved and disciplined three others.

While this is obviously an extreme case, it’s hardly the first time a medical center has had to deal with the fallout from employees posting patient information on social networking sites. Health care workers have difficult jobs, and it’s unrealistic to expect them not to occasionally vent about the stresses they deal with every day. Nor is it realistic to think staffers can be blocked from using social networking sites.

What administrators can expect is for employees to never post information that could identify a specific patient, and to make sure that even complaints are brought up professionally. (There’s a world of difference between someone posting about how tired they are after a 12-hour shift vs. something like: “Ugh. Stupid patient coded and made me miss True Blood tonight!”)

Where the appropriate lines are drawn can get even more confusing when employees use Facebook and similar sites as part of their jobs. Someone who spends a portion of every day Tweeting information about hospital news, educational programs and the like, may start to get too comfortable sharing information online and blur the boundary between personal and professional use.

Bottom line: If your organization doesn’t already have a policy on what’s considered appropriate use of social networking sites, it’s time to establish one. Employees should be reminded that anything they post online is public — no matter how many privacy settings they use — and that those posts related to their work must always remain professional.

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  1. Lincoln Allen says:

    To post patient information and pictures of patients on the internet is ground for immediate dismissal.

    This type of activity shows a complete lack of good judgement in fact a lack of common sense. Those employees should never be entrusted with patient care ever again. Their licenses should be permanently revoked.

    L. Allen, RPA

  2. J. Bolin, LPN says:

    This is purley unprofessional. They should never be intrusted again, to work in the medical field, and should be prosecuted.

  3. Brian, Safety Officer says:

    All I can say is this is a major HIPAA violation, unprofessional and morally wrong. What in the world were they thinking.


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