Healthcare News & Insights

‘It was just a splinter!’ Did hospital overreact to Facebook photo?


Have hospitals gone too far to protect “sensitive” information when even a simple procedure and a photo on Facebook are all it takes to get a number of  employees reprimanded for bad behavior? 

Cathy Miller, a nurse at Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Michigan, wasn’t sure at first why she was given a written reprimand for “unprofessional” behavior and warned that as the investigation continued, she could lose her job..

Turns out, management had discovered photos of Miller and several other Genesys employees on Facebook. But unlike other incidents involving employees on social networks, these photos didn’t show any patients, discuss hospital events or demonstrate employees misusing equipment or acting inappropriately on the clock.

In this case, Miller  had gotten a splinter and a fellow nurse took the fragment out in an unused operating room while the two were on their break. The other nurse posted those photos, and several other “break time” shots on Facebook. The hospital wouldn’t comment on the matter, but according to Miller, the photos didn’t depict patients, didn’t indicate they were taken at Genesys and were all taken while the staffers were on break.

Management ordered the photos to be taken down and reprimanded Miller — a 12-year veteran of the hospital — as well as several other employees involved.

Miller received the lightest punishment — a written reprimand for violating health and safety regs, undesirable conduct and misuse of hospital equipment. (The other nurse wore hospital-owned headlights when removing the splinter.) Other employees received stiffer penalties — up to one month with no pay.

Miller filed a grievance through her union and had the reprimand removed, as did two other employees. Another two workers are still in the arbitration process.

No one denies that hospital staff posting inappropriate information — whether corporate data or individual patient information — is a no-no on any social networking site. But where should the line be drawn? Do health care workers have less ability to post the kinds of daily workplace trivia that workers in other industries take for granted? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Maverick Bronson says:

    “Do health care workers have less ability to post the kinds of daily workplace trivia that workers in other industries take for granted?”

    In a word – Yes.

    There really is no need, and therefore no excuse for exposing your workplace to unneeded attention or ridicule. Healthcare is in a tough enough position these days without employees making it worse.

    Was it a crazy, negligent, or dangerous act? No. But was it necessary? Was it responsible to the greater good of the organization that pays your rent? Did it HELP the cause of the hospital?

    No. And for those reasons, these nurses should have taken their break and gotten back to work, instead of thinking about facebook posts.

    The public expects a higher level of competence and behavior from Healthcare workers. That’s a simple fact. If you don’t like that level of expectation, you can always get a job at 7-11. I’m sure no one would complain if you posted work photos in that profession.

    Otherwise, time to grow up and think about the PR effects of your actions. Always.


  1. […] of maintaining patient privacy and the dangers of social media in a health care setting. Indeed, some hospitals have taken draconian measures. Yet the problem of patient info getting posted on social media sites — or just shared […]