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Talk to Nurses About Facebook Before They Talk About You

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, January 11, 2011

"In my excitement to be able to share with my loved ones the phenomenal learning experience in which I had been blessed enough to take part, I did not consider that others might view this photograph as unprofessional, offensive to the school I was representing, and more importantly the sanctity of human life," Byrnes wrote. "For my actions I am truly sorry."

And herein lies the problem for employers. We are so accustomed to sharing our lives with our friends and families on Facebook, and it is so quick and easy to do so, that many of us do not take the time to think through the implications. What seemed a personal account of an interesting learning experience to Byrnes, through such a public medium became a potential patient privacy violation, with many considering it disrespectful and embarrassing.

Interestingly, the court sided with Byrnes and ordered she be reinstated. In court, all four students testified they had asked for  and received permission to take the photo. The lawyer argued that no patient privacy violation occurred because there was nothing identifiable in the photos. The judge found the school did not give Byrnes a fair hearing, and she and her Byrnes and her classmates are slated to resume their studies.

This case is simply the latest in a string of stories about nurses getting into trouble over Facebook and other social media sites. A story last week involved a nurse suing her former employer after she was fired for complaining about staff, including physicians, posting photos of sedated patients on Facebook. There is a case before the National Labor Relations Board about a nurse fired for posting that she had come "face-to-face" with a "cop killer" and what she hoped would happen to said person.

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