Facebook, Photo’s and Firing! Nurses Fired for Posting Cell Phone Pictures to Facebook … Comments by Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

An article on WISN.com caught my attention and the attention of CNN – as they reported on a nurse who was fired for her (ethical lapse) – choices regarding a photo and comments.  cell-phone

So here’s part of the story as posted by WISN.com:

Nurses accused of photographing a patient and posting the pictures on the Internet have been fired.

The investigation started with an anonymous call from an employee at Mercy Walworth Medical Center in Lake Geneva, with the allegation that a nurse took pictures of a patient with her cell phone and posted them on her Facebook page.

Now before I continue with the story – lesson #1.  DON’T POST STUFF ON FACEBOOK that might be questionable.  A simple rule of thumb…if you think that your employer or your mama would not like your posting – DON’T PUT IT ON THE SITE (or anywhere else on the internet).  It can be found.  It will be found.  And, it will be used against you!

The story goes on to say:

Last week, the nurse told 12 News she never posted the pictures on the Internet. Investigators have since interviewed the nurse and said she offered more details.

“There were two nurses that independently took a picture each of an X-ray of a patient,” Walworth County Undersheriff Kurt Picknell said.

The patient was admitted to the emergency room with an object lodged in his rectum. Police said the nurse explained she and a co-worker snapped photos when they learned it was a sex device. Police said discussion about the incident was posted on her Facebook page, but they haven’t found anyone who actually saw the pictures.

The nurse removed her Facebook page from the Internet last week. Without more, Picknell said this conduct does not appear to violate any state laws. He has referred the case to the FBI.

“We’ve notified federal authorities of this allegation to see if there are federal violations, most notably HIPAA violations, patient rights,” he said.

OUCH!  FBI.  Those three letters are worse than the IRS.

A similar story was reported on December 29, 2008 – same story but posted to MySpace.  As a ethics speaker, I wonder (often) why people believe that their pages on MySpace – Facebook or any other free social networking site are somehow theirs and not public information?  And it’s not the adults that are the only folks with that attitude.  As I speak to University students around the country – they seem to have the same attitude.  They feel that their drunken party photos that have been posted and tagged should be off limits to employers who are considering them for a position.

That is not reality.  Reality is – what you post you are accountable for.

Every choice has a consequence.  This is not the first such example and it won’t be the last.  One thing is for sure, as social networks grow more and more people will be called to task for their postings.  Social networks are wonderful, but be cautious, be careful and avoid the FBI…!

10 Responses to Facebook, Photo’s and Firing! Nurses Fired for Posting Cell Phone Pictures to Facebook … Comments by Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

  1. Anonymous says:

    I know this nurse, and also know for a fact that, 1) no picture of an actual patient was ever taken, 2) a pic of part of a pic of an xray was taken…no pt identifiers were on the pic and the pic was not posted anywhere. The FBI was not notified…they don’t handle HIPAA violations. Further, there was no HIPAA violation. Wanna talk about ethics? Why not talk about the employee who started the rumor, reported it to the news and the sheriff’s dept, got the 2 nurses fired, but that person still has their job.

  2. Thank you for your comment. In the interest of fair and accurate reporting, could you give me more facts.

    1. Why were two nurses fired?
    2. If no cell phone photos were taken, then what was the basis for their dismissal?
    3. Do the nurses in question have an action against the hospital for wrongful dismissal?
    4. Did either of the nurses in question make comments on their facebook page about the incident (hospital patient)?
    5. What was the motivation of the nurse (or whomever) that turned them in?
    6. What facts did the hospital use to justify their dismissal.

    Any comments would be helpful in order to set the record straight.

    • anonymous says:

      Here we are, several years later, and this RN still is baffled and haunted by this. The 2 nurses were fired, ultimately, because of a rumor started by a coworker that had a personal vendetta against these 2 nurses. Nothing was ever posted or even mentioned about the case on any social media. The nurses were investigated by the county, the Wisconsin Board of Nursing, the Wisconsin Hospital Board, and the branch of the FBI that handles HIPAA violations. There were never any charges brought because there
      were no findings. The nurses attempted
      legal action, but after spending thousands of
      dollars, had to walk away because hospitals have deep pockets.

  3. TelsFloosse says:

    I’m the only one in this world. Can please someone join me in this life? Or maybe death…

  4. camille says:

    While I agree that we should be careful what we post on the web, we also must be careful about making false allegations. It sounds more to me like the person who reported had a grudge to grind.While speaking in general terms of an individual experience in ER (which sees quite a lot of odd things at times), one must take care to not post potentially ‘hazardous’ things. However, 1)there were apparently no identifying factors on the photo and 2)no one actually saw it posted, then the hospital should not fire the nurses (unless this was repeat incidences on their part) but reprimand them instead. I have seen a lot of things come thru the hospital I work at by both consumers and medical professionals and we need to remember that we are professionals and while one may want to talk about such odd occurrences, it is in bad taste to post on the web, especially if the location of the incident is known.

  5. fluiblebooste says:

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  6. Terrebenthx says:


    I’m new…Nice forum !

    My name is Mathieu, 27 years old (French).

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  7. steve says:

    Female nurses do this all the time,leer at male patients genitals.Secretly taking pics,posting them
    to myspace,facebook,etc.

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