How a nursing student got expelled for blogging

Here’s an example of how health care professionals should not blog.

Michelle Fabio writes, in a guest post on Better Health, about the travails of a nursing student, who blogged about watching a patient give birth:

When school officials read [nursing student] Yoder’s post, which included a description of the baby as a “creep” and “a wrinkly, bluish creature, all Picasso-like and weird, ugly as hell, covered in god knows what, screeching and waving its tentacles in the air,” they moved to expel her from school by calling her into an office, searching her for weapons (apparently because Yoder had separately blogged about her support for the Second Amendment), and informing her she was no longer enrolled at the school.

That’s right. No hearing, no notice. Expelled from nursing school for blogging.

But here’s where the story gets interesting. The student then sued the school in federal court, and won. Although she disclosed several pieces of information that can be construed as identifying, the court rejected that argument, finding in her favor. Lucky for her.

In any case, I’m pretty sure the legal ordeal was not worth the blog post. With medical students already are under fire for potentially revealing patient information on Facebook, providing incendiary commentary on patient cases is simply foolish, and it’s only inviting trouble down the road.

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  • http://www.medxcentral.com medXcentral (Jim)

    Kevin.. the birth of a baby is strange.. to say the least. So strange, that many can’t bear to watch. I’m not a nurse or practitioner of any sort. This is simply my personal instinct in reaction to the underlying issue this post represents.

    If the Nursing student was venting the overwhelming experience without identifying anyone, it seems healthy in so much as it might help other nursing/healthcare students come to terms with the spectacular nature of events they will witness while practicing. That carries the potential of increased retention rates and increased morale. Agreed?

    Maybe we need to teach “how” to share and not teach “not” to share. I’m just thinking out loud. This is not a challenge.

  • Don’t approve.

    The shock and horror of our icky bodies are something that has to be gotten over. Nasty reactions should be kept to self, and the human desire to vent overridden with self-control and willful self-government. If you can’t do that get out. Get out of medicine. Self-indulgence is not a good quality in a nurse.

  • jsmith

    Well said, Don’t Approve. Being a doctor or a nurse means giving up our regular-persons rights to broadcast disgust at others’ minds or bodies. We should keep our non-therapeutic thoughts private. We are healers in a noble profession, not comedians.

  • Nancy Jean

    Thanks for posting this. First, I’m amazed that a nursing student would be so horrified by a birth. Second, I’m equally amazed that someone in a profession that usually has such compassion would be so callous as to post something like that in a blog. We had something similar happen in a blog by a rad tech who may not have violated patient confidentiality, but came very close by blogging some info that could ALMOST be considered as identifiable information. But the worst part was the way the people were described. If any of the patients had read this blog and realized they were the subject of ridicule by someone who was there to provide care for them, they would be hurt and embarrassed. In the world of blogging, I would think that anyone in healthcare should be expected to show the same respect to the patients they write about as they would offer in person when providing care. Just my two cents.

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  • http://rebeldoctor.blogspot.com/ Michael Rack, MD

    This is the line in the original blog post that immediately follows “…waving its tentacles in the air”:
    “15 minutes later it turned into a cute pink itty bitty little baby girl”
    Kind of changes the whole tone, doesn’t it?
    Here is Yoder’s original blog post:
    http://www.pageonekentucky.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/yoder1.pdf

    Here is my blog post about the Yoder incident:
    http://rebeldoctor.blogspot.com/2009/10/blogging-nursing-student-expelled.html

  • justapatient

    It’s curious how a student nurse was allowed to videotape the birth. There was nothing in her blog or in the court transcripts that said the patient gave permission.

    And her description (page 2) “I jump up and turn my camera on again, assuming the position of a greyhound, right in between (the patient’s legs)”…. so the doctor had no problem with this person in training knocking elbows with him as he’s trying to do his job? And anyone wonder what her plans were for the this video, and what became of the tape?

    If indeed it is legal for a hospital worker to bring in their own personal camera equipment and film an intimate procedure without explicit patient consent, then this case truly showcases the arrogance of entitlement in the medical profession.

  • http://www.codeblog.com/ Gina

    Actually it was a guest post on codeblog.

  • Oculata

    Apparently, these young whippersnappers don’t remember the saga of Flea, whose blogging cost him a malpractice verdict, and a public outing on the front page of the Boston Globe (above the fold!).

    Blogging also landed me on the front page of a newspaper, and while it didn’t get me dismissed from my training program, it was a sufficiently painful experience that I set aside the blog for good.

    In the post-Google era, it’s very easy to identify people from minimal details, and so the bar for maintaining patient privacy is now far higher than just having your charts in a locked cabinet. Long story short: it’s not worth the potential hit to your career or reputation to blog about your clinical experiences in real time. If you want to write about patients, do it like Jerome Groopman or Atul Gawande do: in retrospect, with your patient’s permission, and to make a point. “Writing” short blog posts or one-line Facebook status updates about patients is all risk, no benefit. Writing long, meaningful essays or stories about poignient encounters with patients, in an informed and transparent manner is all benefit, little risk.

  • DMAC

    Dr. Kevin,
    I’m finding this article timely and upsetting. Where has the human compassion and medical professionalism of some practitioners gone?? Just two days ago I was Googling for information on intubation, and was linked to some disturbing videos on UTube, the worst one being a naked woman spread out and uncovered, and filmed while unconscious. Judging from the comments below it, and the number of hits it received, I know I am not the only one who found this upsetting. It certainly doesn’t make me feel any better about my already huge concerns about general anesthesia. I also recalled some comment on a TV blip, where the actors were talking about “Code Pink: Naked unconscious female,” as though this was some standing joke in the profession. How are people, especially women, supposed to feel with this kind of prevalent mentality? It’s unacceptable for medical personnel to be so disrespectful of patients. Doesn’t do anything to enhance the image of the field, for sure.

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