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As an emerg nurse, Justin saw his share of trauma patients. After a rainy night shift involving a bad car accident, Justin tweeted a photo to several colleagues and described his client’s injuries.
Someone sent the photo to other staff. When a nurse recognized the background in the photo, she reported it to her manager. The manager was concerned about a breach of client privacy and investigated. The photo was traced back to Justin. Even though the client was not recognizable, Justin was disciplined for breaching his client’s privacy and breaking policy by using his personal cell phone to take a client’s photo.
Postscript: Justin realized that taking and sharing the photo was impulsive and inappropriate. He is aware of his employer’s policy on photography and knows he is responsible for understanding and following such policies. He now keeps his phone in his locker while working.
Karan works with a group of young mothers. The moms started a Facebook group to share issues and support each other through parenting challenges. Karan accepted an invitation to join and she often logs in to scan the page.
She was concerned when one mom posted she was having a rough time and feeling very low. Karan, trying to be supportive, commented, “I know last week was difficult. Are you still on your meds? Why don’t you drop in tomorrow and we can talk.”
After work, another mom stopped Karan in the grocery store and said, “I didn’t know Micayla was on meds, I thought you couldn’t take meds when you were breastfeeding!” Karan was horrified to realize that her supportive comment on Facebook was a violation of confidentiality. She told the mom that she could not discuss another client. Then she pulled out her phone, logged into Facebook and deleted her comment. She now questions whether she should have accepted the invitation to join the group.
Postscript: Karan spoke with her manager about what happened. Together they are developing agency policy for using social media with clients.
Anna blogged to stay in touch with her family, friends and former colleagues. She wrote descriptively about her community and work, always careful not to use names. Her former colleagues often commented on her posts, sharing their own stories. They agreed that sometimes clients were unappreciative and managers didn't care.
A comment from a former client caused Anna to re-read her blog. She saw that her descriptions had details such as when things happened, as well as client ages, genders and health issues. Anyone who knew Anna, the clients or the agency would know who she was talking about. In addition, her posts and the comments from her colleagues were disrespectful of clients and workplaces. Recognizing that she had crossed a line, Anna deleted her blog.
Eventually Anna’s employer learned of the blog. He said Anna had breached clients' privacy and damaged the community’s trust in the agency and its employees. In addition, he called her previous employer to tell them about their staff's comments on the blog and their failure to report that Anna was breaching confidentiality. Anna and two other nurses were reported to their regulatory college.
Postscript: While resolving her employer's complaint, Anna learned how to share her experiences responsibly. She discussed the situation with a fellow nurse blogger and reviewed her agency social media policy and CRNBC's social media guidelines. When Anna began blogging again, she made sure to focus on her personal and professional thoughts, beliefs and learning—without sharing any client, colleague or workplace information.
CRNBC would like to thank the National Council of State Boards of Nursing for permission to adapt their content.
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