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

February 26, 2009

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…!