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Talk to Nurses About Facebook Before They Talk About You

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, January 11, 2011

Yesterday, my mother joined Facebook. When she told me she wanted to sign up, I was perplexed. Who would she be friends with on Facebook, other than my brother and me? Turns out, a lot of her friends are on Facebook and she wants to stay in touch. Plus she wants to stay up-to-date with this exciting development of the modern world.

So my brother helped her set up an account and now she's off and running. Last night, in her first status update, I learned she was excited to watch a new TV series premiering that night.

And with that harmless post, I realized that everyone I know is on Facebook. Short of my 92-year-old grandmother—who takes her TV remote control into a repair shop to get the batteries replaced, so I'm pretty sure Facebook isn't on her radar—I can keep up with everyone I know, to a greater or lesser extent, via this one medium.

Facebook's ubiquity makes people not think about it very much. It's just part of life. But when your profession involves interacting in other people's lives, the lines can be blurred.

Last month, four nursing students were thrown out of school after they posted photos of themselves with a placenta on Facebook. The students from Johnson County Community College, in Overland Park, KS, were taking part in a lab experience at Olathe Medical Center. After posting the photos on their Facebook accounts, the students got the boot.

One of the students, Doyle Byrnes, took the college to court to seek an injunction that would allow her to resume classes. According to the suit, the students asked their instructor whether they could take photos.

The placenta had no identification that could have linked it to a particular patient. Byrnes included a letter in the court case that she sent to the school after her dismissal. In it, she wrote:

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